ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Monday the world risks losing a generation of young people to unemployment and called for a more inclusive culture, as he headed to Brazil on his first trip outside Italy.
Speaking to journalists on board his plane, Francis expressed concern about how many young people have no jobs and condemned a "disposable" culture which also hurt the elderly.
"The world crisis is not treating young people well ... We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person's dignity," Francis said in prepared remarks to the papal press corps.
Although the Argentine pope's Latin America is a stronghold of the Church, Protestant faiths have made inroads and more materialist urban populations have eclipsed the rural populace where Catholicism first took root.
Francis, who succeeded Benedict XVI five months ago, will spend a week in Brazil for World Youth Day at a time when many young people in the world's largest Roman Catholic country have been joined mass protests over economic inequalities.
"Young people at the moment are in crisis," the pontiff said. "We have all become accustomed to this disposable culture. We do the same thing with the elderly, but with all these people out of work even they are afflicted by a culture where everything is disposable. We have to stop this habit of throwing things away. We need a culture of inclusion."
Youth unemployment in developed economies is so severe it has prompted the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to call for more government intervention, possibly including paying companies to hire. Youth unemployment rates in Greece and Spain are near 60 percent.
The biennial World Youth Day is expected to draw more than a million visitors to Rio de Janeiro and nearby sites.
Francis said young people must not be isolated. "When we isolate the young ... we strip them of the possibility of belonging and the young have to belong."
He added: "But even at the other extreme of life the elderly are also the future of a people."
Since being elected, the new pope has repeatedly emphasized that he wants a humbler church and has shunned the Vatican's traditional pomp. He will stay in Brazil in a room similar to those used by other priests rather than the big suite organizers had prepared.
Francis has set up special commissions to reform both the scandal-hit Vatican bank and the troubled central Church bureaucracy.
On the plane he declared: "We need to make an effort to bring everyone into society, this is the sense I want to bring to this trip."
Writing by Barry Moody; Editing by Ruth Pitchford