Europe

The Latest: Pope takes charge of church's migrant response

  • Abdulsalam Mahmoud from Syria, 18, sits at his tent on the terrace of an abandoned hospital wing, which is used as a makeshift shelter for about 150 Syrian refugees in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Over 59,000 people remain stranded in the country, most in army-built camps on the mainland and about 7,800 refugees are receiving hotel vouchers or live in vacant apartments. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

    Abdulsalam Mahmoud from Syria, 18, sits at his tent on the terrace of an abandoned hospital wing, which is used as a makeshift shelter for about 150 Syrian refugees in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Over 59,000 people remain stranded in the country, most in army-built camps on the mainland and about 7,800 refugees are receiving hotel vouchers or live in vacant apartments. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)  (The Associated Press)

  • A refugee from Eritrea sleeps on the Astral vessel after being rescued from the Mediterranean sea, about 13 miles north of Sabratha, Libya, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Thousands of migrants and refugees were rescued Monday morning from more than 20 boats by members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO before transferring them to the Italian cost guards and others NGO vessels operating at the zone. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

    A refugee from Eritrea sleeps on the Astral vessel after being rescued from the Mediterranean sea, about 13 miles north of Sabratha, Libya, Monday, Aug. 29, 2016. Thousands of migrants and refugees were rescued Monday morning from more than 20 boats by members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO before transferring them to the Italian cost guards and others NGO vessels operating at the zone. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)  (The Associated Press)

  • Abdulsalam Mahmoud from Syria, 18, sits at his tent on the terrace of an abandoned hospital wing, which is used as a makeshift shelter for about 150 Syrian refugees in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Over 59,000 people remain stranded in the country, most in army-built camps on the mainland and about 7,800 refugees are receiving hotel vouchers or live in vacant apartments. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

    Abdulsalam Mahmoud from Syria, 18, sits at his tent on the terrace of an abandoned hospital wing, which is used as a makeshift shelter for about 150 Syrian refugees in Athens, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Over 59,000 people remain stranded in the country, most in army-built camps on the mainland and about 7,800 refugees are receiving hotel vouchers or live in vacant apartments. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on xxxxxxx (all times local):

1:25 p.m.

Pope Francis has asserted his concern for the plight of refugees by assuming direct responsibility for migrant issues in a new Vatican department that merges four Vatican offices into one handling peace, the environment and human trafficking matters.

The Vatican issued the statutes Wednesday for the new Vatican dicastery, which puts the pontifical councils for migrants, peace and justice, health workers and charity under one roof. The reorganization is part of Francis' overall reform of the Vatican bureaucracy to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of local dioceses.

Francis named as the department's prefect Cardinal Peter Turkson, currently head of the Vatican's justice and peace office who was the front-man for Francis' landmark environment encyclical. But the Vatican said Francis would personally oversee migrant issues.

___

1:20 p.m.

Poland's interior minister says Poland has denied entry to a group of Chechens because the country is sealing its border to protect the nation and Europe against the threat of terrorism.

Mariusz Blaszczak was commenting Wednesday on Poland's refusal this week to admit some 200 Chechens from Belarus, across the European Union's external border.

Speaking on TVN24 Blaszczak said: "The point is to ensure security to Europe,"

He says that as long as the conservative Law and Justice party was in power "we will not expose Poland to the threat of terrorism."

He did not explain why he linked the Chechens to terrorism.

Poland rejects the EU plan for the group's members to share responsibility for sheltering migrants fleeing conflict in Syria, the Middle East and Africa.