Pope Francis has demanded that Europe craft a unified and fair immigration policy, saying that thousands of refugees coming ashore need acceptance and assistance, not self-interested policies that risk lives and fuel social conflict.

Francis made the comments Tuesday to the European Parliament during a brief visit meant to highlight his vision for Europe a quarter-century after St. John Paul II travelled to Strasbourg to address a continent still divided by the Iron Curtain.

Francis said he wanted to bring a message of hope to Europeans distrustful of their institutions, burdened by economic crisis and spiritually adrift in a culture that no longer values human dignity.

He called for legislators to promote policies that create jobs and accept immigrants, saying "We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!"