- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

ROME (AP) - Pope Francis on Sunday criticized Europe for becoming what he called “tired” because of low birth rates and the increasing numbers of young people who neither work nor study.

Francis delivered the harsh assessment as he visited an ancient Rome basilica in Trastevere, a traditionally working-class neighborhood that is also home to a Catholic organization, Sant’Egidio Community, whose volunteers help the elderly, immigrants and other needy.

Francis said Europe often “discards” both its elderly, by shunting them aside, and its young, by failing to provide work.

“A people which doesn’t care for its elderly, which doesn’t take care of its young people, is a people without a future, a people without hope,” Francis said.

The pope said by helping both young and old, “you begin to renew society.”

As he did earlier in the day, when he addressed tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Francis asked for others’ prayers.

“You need to pray for me in overtime,” Francis quipped.

Last week, Francis canceled two days of meetings after coming down with what the Vatican would only describe as a “mild” illness. He was back in the public eye Wednesday, appearing to hold up well in the hot, humid heat during his weekly audience.

Earlier Sunday, Francis announced he had accepted an invitation to go to Albania in September. In August, he flies to South Korea for events that include a jamboree with Catholic youths.

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Follow Frances D’Emilio on Twitter at www.twitter.com.fdemilio

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