Pope Francis meets ambassadors to the Holy See, at the Vatican, Jan. 13, 2014. Andrew Medichini/AP
Pope Francis criticized abortion on Monday as evidence of a "throwaway culture" that wastes people like food and urged Italy to do more to help migrants.
In an annual speech on world crises, Francis cited abortion and said: "Unfortunately what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as unnecessary."
The Pope issued a mission statement for his papacy in November, outlining how the Catholic Church and the papacy must be reformed to create a more merciful church that seeks out the poor and oppressed.
But Francis restated the church's opposition to abortion. The doctrine, he said, is nonnegotiable and is at the core of the church's insistence on the dignity of every human being. In a September interview, Pope Francis said the church had become 'obsessed' with abortion.
"We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible," he said.
"The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."
Francis also urged better respect for migrants and denounced the persecution of Christians in Asia, Africa and the Middle East in his address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See.
The pope said Italy should do more for migrants and generously "take in the weakest and most vulnerable."
The European Commission threatened Italy with legal action in December 2013 for possible breaches of the EU's rules on granting asylum, over Italy's treatment of migrants arriving from Africa on the island of Lampedusa.
A video showing migrants standing naked in the cold while being sprayed for scabies at a detention center stirred outrage in Italy.
Hundreds of people have died in recent months trying to reach Europe by boat through Lampedusa, an Italian island off the coasts of Libya and Tunisia.
More than 7,000 migrants may have perished at sea or while crossing deserts trying to reach a safe haven this year, believed to be the deadliest on record, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The pope’s progressivism has been cited as the reason for growing participation in Catholic churches across Europe. But his popularity hasn’t proved to have the same pull in the United States, where attendance in Catholic churches continues to decline, according to polls.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press