VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis asked homeless people during a moving ceremony Friday to pardon all the Christians who turn away from the poor instead of help them.
Francis stood silently in a Vatican auditorium with his head bowed as he let several homeless individuals place their hands on his shoulders or clutch his cassock.
Some 4,000 people from 22 countries who either are now homeless or who spent years living on streets filled the auditorium in one of Francis' final events during the Catholic church's Holy Year of Mercy.
"I ask pardon," the pope said, on behalf of Christians who, "faced with a poor person or a situation of poverty, look the other way."
After some of the homeless recounted their difficult lives, Francis praised the poor for holding fast to their dignity.
He asked his homeless guests to stay seated while he stood to pray that God "teach us to be in solidarity because we are brothers."
Rome daily La Repubblica on Friday published the pope's response when he was asked on the eve of the U.S. presidential election what he thought of Donald Trump, who went on to capture the presidency.
"I don't give judgments on persons and political men," Francis replied.
Instead, the pontiff reportedly told La Repubblica, "I only want to understand the sufferings that their way of proceeding causes the poor and the excluded."
Friday's audience with homeless people was scheduled for the day the church honors St. Martin of Tours, famed for cutting his cloak with his sword and giving half to a poor man shivering in winter. Francis has given medals depicting Martin to world leaders.
The church's Holy Year of Mercy, which stressed attention to those on life's margins, ends Nov. 20 with a Mass celebrated by Francis.