Pope Francis welcomes refugees with a warm embrace

Pope Francis waves to faithful as he deliversthe Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. The pontiff is recalling the victims of attacks by extremists last week in Burkina Faso and Indonesia. Francis led a prayer for the dead when he greeted a crowd of faithful in St. Peter’s Square Sunday. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis has greeted several thousand migrants, including many asylum-seekers, in St. Peter’s Square, encouraging them to hang on to hope.

Many refugees were waving flags of their countries when Francis addressed them during his traditional Sunday appearance to faithful in the square as the Catholic church worldwide marked a day dedicated to refugees.

Francis told them: “Each of you carry in yourselves a history, a culture, precious values” along with experiences of poverty, oppression and fear.

The pope says: “don’t let anyone rob you of this hope and the joy for life.”

Europe is struggling to shelter or integrate hundreds of thousands of people who have been fleeing war, persecution and poverty. Some Europeans are worried about rising crime and the costs of hosting migrants.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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