Pope Francis has hailed immigrant women who care for Italians' elderly and children and paid tribute to Catholics who perished because of their faith while Ukraine was under Soviet rule.

Francis reached out to the Ukrainian Catholic community in Rome on Sunday with a visit to a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic basilica. At the church, he greeted an archbishop he knows from Buenos Aires, which, like Rome, has a sizeable Ukrainian immigrant community.

Francis recalled that a Ukrainian prelate instructed him as a 12-year-old altar boy at a Buenos Aires church. He said he also studied the Ukrainian alphabet.

The pope told the faithful he understands their anguish for a homeland "scourged by war and economic difficulties." He prayed for an end to the deadly armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.