Defend environment, society's weakest members, pope tells Mass

VATICAN CITY Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:31am EDT

Crowds fill Saint Peter's Square for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 19, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Crowds fill Saint Peter's Square for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a strong appeal for the protection of the environment and the defense of the weakest members of society, urging the world to shun, "the omens of destruction and death".

"It means respecting each of God's creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about," he said in the homily of his inaugural Mass.

Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, took his name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a symbol of poverty, charity and love of nature.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella and Catherine Hornby)