Pope Francis on Friday called for an end to the "arrogance of the powerful" that relegates the weak to the outskirts of society, and to the "false neutrality" toward conflicts, hunger and persecution that triggers a sometimes-deadly exodus of refugees.

Welcoming the new year, Francis emphasized the need to "let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing." He recommended cooperation as the way to build an "ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace."

In his homily in St. Peter's Basilica, he reflected on the "countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family."

"Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world." He continued: "We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims."

Francis cited no country, continent or conflict. But his words clearly evoked images of the refugees and migrants, more than 1 million of whom flooded into Europe from Africa, the Middle East and Asia in 2015, on dangerous sea or overland journeys. He spoke of "witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights."

The Catholic church dedicates New Year's Day to the theme of peace, and Francis this year is stressing mercy as the path toward reconciliation.

To highlight the benefits springing from forgiveness and reconciliation in the world, Francis declared a Holy Year of Mercy, which began last month and runs through November 2016. Early Friday evening, he was to visit a Rome basilica, St. Mary Major, where he sometimes slips away to pray, to open a normally sealed Holy Door as a symbolic threshold to cross toward mercy for Catholic faithful.