Pope Benedict XVI urged world leaders Wednesday to take in and care for refugees who seek asylum in their countries.

Speaking on a day the United Nations sets aside as World Refugee Day, Benedict said accepting refugees was a "dutiful gesture of human solidarity."

"From the heart I hope that these — our brothers and sisters so tried by suffering — are guaranteed asylum and the recognition of their rights, and I invite those responsible for the nations to offer protection to those who are in such delicate situations of need," the pope said.

Addressing the 7,000 pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Paul VI audience hall for his weekly public audience, the pope said taking in refugees was for Christians "a concrete way to show evangelical love."

He defined refugees as people "forced to flee from their countries as a result of true life-threatening dangers."

A U.N. report released Tuesday said that, at the end of 2006, the world had 9.9 million refugees, a 14 percent increase over the 8.7 million refugees recorded in 2005.