MYTILENE, GREECE - APRIL 16:  In this handout image provided by Greek Prime Minister's Office, Pope Francis meets migrants at the Moria detention centre on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. Pope Francis will visit migrants at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos along with Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronimos II.  (Photo by Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images Europe/Greek Prime Minister via Getty I
MYTILENE, GREECE - APRIL 16: In this handout image provided by Greek Prime Minister's Office, Pope Francis meets migrants at the Moria detention centre on April 16, 2016 in Mytilene, Lesbos, Greece. Pope Francis will visit migrants at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos along with Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronimos II. (Photo by Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images)
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Pope Francis gives his speech during his weekly general audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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Pope Francis delivers his speech during his audience for members of the International Pilgrimage of the Ministrants at St Peter's Square on July 31, 2018 in Vatican City. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis delivers his speech during his audience for members of the International Pilgrimage of the Ministrants at St Peter's Square on July 31, 2018 in Vatican City. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis prays during a weekly general audience in St Peter's square on May 23, 2018 in Vatican. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
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MALMO, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31:  Pope Francis gives a speech during the 'Together in Hope' event at Malmo Arena on October 31, 2016 in Malmo, Sweden. The Pope is on 2 days visit attending Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration in Lund and Malmo.  (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
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MALMO, SWEDEN - OCTOBER 31: Pope Francis gives a speech during the 'Together in Hope' event at Malmo Arena on October 31, 2016 in Malmo, Sweden. The Pope is on 2 days visit attending Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration in Lund and Malmo. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
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On Sunday (April 15) Pope Francis comforted a child who lost his father during a visit to a poor district of Rome, saying God has a "dad's heart".
During a meeting Francis answered questions from children and one of them, Emanuele, was too shy to speak at the microphone so the pontiff decided to invite him onto stage. The child started crying and hugged Francis and whispered his question into the pope's ears, saying he was afraid that his father, who was an atheist, could not go to heaven.
Francis comforted Emanuele and said that it is God who decides who goes to heaven and that, since God has a 'dad's heart', he will not abandon the boy's dad, even if he was not a believer.
The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics visited the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in Rome's Corviale neighbourhood and met with children of the poor district of the Italian capital and celebrated Mass for the parish community.
Reuters
On Sunday (April 15) Pope Francis comforted a child who lost his father during a visit to a poor district of Rome, saying God has a "dad's heart". During a meeting Francis answered questions from children and one of them, Emanuele, was too shy to speak at the microphone so the pontiff decided to invite him onto stage. The child started crying and hugged Francis and whispered his question into the pope's ears, saying he was afraid that his father, who was an atheist, could not go to heaven. Francis comforted Emanuele and said that it is God who decides who goes to heaven and that, since God has a 'dad's heart', he will not abandon the boy's dad, even if he was not a believer. The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics visited the parish of St. Paul of the Cross in Rome's Corviale neighbourhood and met with children of the poor district of the Italian capital and celebrated Mass for the parish community.
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Pope Francis marries flight attendants Carlos Ciuffardi, left, and Paola Podest, center, during a flight from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique, Chile, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying these two flight attendants from Chile's flagship airline during the flight. The couple had been married civilly in 2010, however, they said they couldn't follow-up with a church ceremony because of the 2010 earthquake that hit Chile. (L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP)
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Pope Francis marries flight attendants Carlos Ciuffardi, left, and Paola Podest, center, during a flight from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique, Chile, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Pope Francis celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying these two flight attendants from Chile's flagship airline during the flight. The couple had been married civilly in 2010, however, they said they couldn't follow-up with a church ceremony because of the 2010 earthquake that hit Chile. (L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Media/Pool Photo via AP)
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A general view shows the crowd during the Easter Sunday mass on April 16, 2017 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
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A general view shows the crowd during the Easter Sunday mass on April 16, 2017 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter. / AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis meets with Polish bishops at Wawel royal castle in Krakow, on July 27, 2016 during World Youth Days.
Pope Francis heads to Poland for an international Catholic youth festival with a mission to encourage openness to migrants. / AFP / WOJTEK RADWANSKI        (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Pope Francis meets with Polish bishops at Wawel royal castle in Krakow, on July 27, 2016 during World Youth Days. Pope Francis heads to Poland for an international Catholic youth festival with a mission to encourage openness to migrants. / AFP / WOJTEK RADWANSKI (Photo credit should read WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Charlene, Princess of Monaco (2-L) kisses the hand of Pope Francis, as her husband Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) looks on prior to a private audience with the pontiff at the Vatican on January 18, 2016.     / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE        (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Charlene, Princess of Monaco (2-L) kisses the hand of Pope Francis, as her husband Prince Albert II of Monaco (L) looks on prior to a private audience with the pontiff at the Vatican on January 18, 2016. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
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VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 29:  Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass on March 29, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem, where he was put to death. It marks the official beginning of Holy Week during which Christians observe the death of Christ before celebrations begin on Easter.  (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MARCH 29: Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass on March 29, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. On Palm Sunday Christians celebrate Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem, where he was put to death. It marks the official beginning of Holy Week during which Christians observe the death of Christ before celebrations begin on Easter. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

The pontiff spoke to migrants about his visit to a Greek refugee camp

American Jewish Committee asks he reconsider "regrettable" word choice

(CNN) —  

Pope Francis has drawn a rebuke from the American Jewish Committee after he likened European refugee centers to “concentration camps.”

The Pope was speaking to migrants at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on Saturday about a man he met at a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last year.

Pope Francis, center, leads the Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica on April 15.
TIZIANA FABI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis, center, leads the Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica on April 15.

“I don’t know if he was able to get out of that concentration camp, because the refugee camps – many – are concentration (camps), because they are so crowded with people,” the Pope said in Italian.

The AJC issued a statement asking the pontiff to reconsider his “regrettable” choice of words.

“The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult, and deserve still greater international attention, but concentration camps they certainly are not,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

“The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labor and the extermination of millions of people during World War II,” he said.

“There is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy.”

The Vatican’s web site said Francis was speaking off the cuff when he said the refugee camps are like “concentration camps, while international agreements seem to be more important than human rights.”