Europe

Pope makes surprise visit to Rome park marking Earth Day

  • Pope Francis delivers his speech as he looks at a banner reading "I Care", during his appearance at an Earth Day event in Rome, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Francis made a surprise appearance at the Earth Day event getting up on stage to give an unscheduled address to the delight of the audience in the Villa Borghese park. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT

    Pope Francis delivers his speech as he looks at a banner reading "I Care", during his appearance at an Earth Day event in Rome, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Francis made a surprise appearance at the Earth Day event getting up on stage to give an unscheduled address to the delight of the audience in the Villa Borghese park. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • Pope Francis reaches out to caress a young girl during his appearance at an Earth Day event in Rome, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Francis made a surprise appearance at the Earth Day event getting up on stage to give an unscheduled address to the delight of the audience in the Villa Borghese park. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT

    Pope Francis reaches out to caress a young girl during his appearance at an Earth Day event in Rome, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Francis made a surprise appearance at the Earth Day event getting up on stage to give an unscheduled address to the delight of the audience in the Villa Borghese park. (Claudio Peri/ANSA via AP) ITALY OUT  (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis has made a surprise visit to one of Rome's main parks to participate in an Earth Day event.

Francis, who wrote an encyclical decrying the exploitation of the Earth's environment and resources often at the expense of the poor, went to Villa Borghese, a park filled with Sunday strollers.

He sat on an outdoor stage along with an Italian priest who has courageously denounced Naples-area mobsters for systemically dumping toxic waste on local farmland in a lucrative, illicit operation often serving legitimate businesses.

The pope told the audience that money has become a god "at the center of the world."