Pope Francis has called on Europe’s leaders to do more to help migrants arriving on their shores - in order to inject new impetus and energy back into the “somewhat elderly and haggard” continent.
And the leader of the Catholic Church said legislators risk turning the Mediterranean into a “vast cemetery” if they do not do more to tackle the immigration crisis, which every year sees thousands of poor and desperate migrants drowning as they attempt to reach Europe.
In an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Pope Francis compared the continent to a grandmother who is no longer fertile and vibrant and urged law-makers to create jobs and not allow the bureaucracy of its institutions to suffocate the ideals which once defined it.
“The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions,” he said. Speaking just a few days after 600 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa, he called for "a united response to the question of migration".
"We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,“ he said.
"The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance" he said.
He called for leaders to work together to protect immigrants from human traffickers and establish a Europe that “revolves not around the economy but around the sacredness of the human person”.
“The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labour by ensuring proper working conditions,” he said.
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
The Argentine pope has made defence of migrants and workers a key plank of his papacy. He has attacked the global economic system for failing to share wealth and chose the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa, which many migrants have died trying to reach, as the venue for his first trip as pontiff.
Unemployment is about 10.1 per cent in the 28-nation European Union and about 11.5 per cent in the 18-nation euro zone. It is more than double that level in Spain and Greece and youth unemployment is more than 40 per cent in some areas.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that 3,200 migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far in 2014.
Additional reporting by Reuters