Pope Francis has denounced the "scandalous" amounts of money that governments and world institutions have found to save ailing banks but not suffering people, including migrants who are dying as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

The pope on Saturday denounced these policies as a "bankruptcy of humanity."

The pope spoke during a meeting at the Vatican with an international group that included environmentalists, labor union activists and indigenous rights activists. In the audience was the former president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, a defender of the poor.

Francis said: "What happens in the world of today is that when a bank is bankrupt, scandalous sums immediately appear to save it," while much smaller amounts of money cannot be found "to save the brothers that suffer so much."