Francis delivered the harsh assessment today when he visited a Rome basilica, home to a Catholic organisation, Sant'Egidio Community, whose volunteers help the elderly, immigrants and other needy.

He said Europe often "discards" both its elderly, by shunting them aside as "no longer useful," and its young, by failing to provide work.

Francis said of economic crisis-mired Europe: "We must help it to get younger" and re-discover its roots. His predecessors, Benedict XVI and John Paul II, often said that Western Europe had forgotten its Christian roots and had become obsessed with consumerism.

He said by helping both young and old, "you begin to renew society."

(Agencies)

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