John Thavis, an American writer on the Catholic Church and the author of "The Vatican Diaries," said Pope Francis had a very different take on Europe than his two immediate predecessors, a Pole and then a German, for whom "Europe was the center of the universe."

By contrast, Francis gave little direct encouragement to calls for "more Europe," and instead echoed some of the complaints from surging populist politicians who view the European Union as a meddlesome force that inhibits rather than promotes ambition and economic growth.

"In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens toward institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful," Francis said, dressed in white clerical robes as he addressed the packed hall.

Public discontent with the European Union's bureaucracy, widely seen as wasteful, elitist and self-serving, helped propel France's far-right National Front party and several other once-fringe nationalist groups to strong gains in May elections for the European Parliament. In France, the National Front came ahead of all other parties.

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The pope won particularly loud applause on Tuesday with remarks that seemed to challenge a largely German-scripted policy rooted in austerity as the cure to Europe's economic ills.

"The time has come to promote policies which create employment," he said, "but above all, there is a need to restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions."

In a second speech Tuesday to the Council of Europe, another Strasbourg assembly with a palatial building but little resonance among ordinary people, Francis said, "It is my profound hope that the foundations will be laid for a new social and economic cooperation."

He noted that the Catholic Church had played an important role over centuries in providing charity for Europe's poor but added: "How many of them there are in our streets! They ask not only for the food they need for survival, which is the most elementary of rights, but also for a renewed appreciation of the value of their own life, which poverty obscures, and a rediscovery of the dignity conferred by work."