Pope Francis has thrown his support behind proposed legislation aimed at better integrating migrants into Italian society and the workforce, intervening in a broader debate over immigration and citizenship that has consumed national politics in recent weeks.

Francis noted Wednesday that he had met with some refugees this week as the U.N. marked world refugee day. The pope, who has prioritized the plight of refugees in his four-year papacy, said he wanted to voice his appreciation for a campaign backed by Italy's Radical Party to overhaul the country's restrictive migration policy and regularize those who are here illegally.

Francis stopped short, however, of backing a separate, government-backed proposal to give citizenship to children of migrants born or educated here. Currently, these children can apply for citizenship only at age 18.