Pope Francis has said humanity is at a “roaring crossroads” and called on the international community to take in more refugees.
Speaking in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on Thursday night, he described the world today as a “crime scene” and said humanity is “now in a catastrophic state”.
The pope spoke during a meeting with members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, saying: “Your courage and strength are immensely encouraging. You have helped create awareness and give hope that humanity can change.”
The pope held a town hall meeting and then spoke to the pope of Peace, a small dialogue group which focuses on the theme of peace and works to rebuild wounds caused by conflict.
Pope Francis visits mosque and a prison in Iraq – in pictures Read more
During the speeches, Francis expressed his sorrow and concern over the threat of persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere, according to Vatican Radio.
He said he was “deeply sorry that in the past week we learned of the mass murders in Libya and about the disproportionate atrocities committed by Islamic fundamentalists”.
Pope Francis follows the Iraqi children, the only ones at the Mass, up the altar before St Peter speaks. Photograph: Mike Groll/AP
The pope has been pushing for more openness to immigrants and refugees and called on the international community to take in more migrants in a tweet last month, before his trip to Chile and Peru.
Francis praised victims of clerical abuse and urged victims to continue to come forward “with new courage”.
“You have given witness to the crimes of sin committed by some powerful priests in the name of the church,” he said. “I ask you to continue to speak out with new courage, sharing your testimony with your brothers and sisters in the church, as well as with those who love the church, who want the church to become a light.”
Francis was speaking on the first full day of his trip to Latin America, arriving in Argentina a day late due to bad weather in Chile.
He later attended a Mass before tens of thousands in the courtyard of the cathedral in Buenos Aires. He made no formal speech after the Mass and did not shake hands with those in the crowd.
“It was amazing to see the crowd here – I never imagined that a pope would come to our country,” said Rosangela Leonagas, 68, who had waited at the cathedral since before dawn to catch a glimpse of Francis.
Francis, who has reshaped the church’s priorities in a bid to empower the poor and disadvantaged, has denounced the damage done to Latin America’s moral authority by its past association with the region’s dictatorship dictatorships.