Pope Francis hosts Syrian refugees for lunch at his private residence

Pope Francis today shared lunch at his residence with the group of 21 Syrian refugees now living in Rome.

Pope Francis welcomes a group of Syrian refugees after landing at Ciampino airport in Rome.Reuters

The Pope shared gifts with the refugees, who are staying with the Community of Sant'Egidio inside the Vatican.

Greg Burke, the Director of the Holy See press office, said: "Both adults and children had an opportunity to speak with Pope Francis about the beginning of their lives in Italy. The children presented the Holy Father with a collection of their drawings, and the Pope presented them with toys and other gifts."

The Pope hosted the refugees at Casa Santa Marta, his private residence.

The families arrived in Italy after the visit by Pope Francis to the island of Lesbos in Greece. The first group of refugees flew back with the Pope on 16 April and the second arrived in mid-June.

Pope Francis and his Syrian guests were joined by the Substitute Secretary of State, Archbishop Angelo, Becciù, Professor Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Dr Domenico Giani, Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, and two gendarmes who assisted with the transfer of the families from Lesbos to Italy.

Pope Francis's trip to Lesbos was organised after the Pontiff said he wanted "to shed light on the major humanitarian problem" presented by the refugee crisis.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said the three families were selected because they had their papers ready.

Two Christian families were also originally meant to be taken in by the Vatican, but their documents had not been prepared in time.

"I have always said that building walls is not a solution," the Pope added. "We saw walls during the last century and they did not resolve anything. We must build bridges. Bridges are built with intelligence, with dialogue, with integration."

In Lesbos, he greeted hundreds of refugees. "I want to tell you that you are not alone," he told them.

"In these weeks and months, you have endured much suffering in your search for a better life. Many of you felt forced to flee situations of conflict and persecution for the sake, above all, of your children, your little ones."