Pope Francis has asked for a pardon from homeless people for all the Christians who turn away from the poor.

In a moving ceremony Friday in a Vatican auditorium, Francis stood silently with his head bowed as he let several homeless persons 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 the streets filled the auditorium in one of Francis' final moves in 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.