Pope Francis has strongly condemned the craving for material gains and power, telling world leaders gathered at the United Nations that greed is destroying the Earth's resources and aggravating poverty.

"A selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged," he said in a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday. 

The leader of the world's more than one billion Roman Catholics also appealed for world peace, while issuing his latest plea for the protection of both Muslims and Christians persecuted by armed groups in Syria and Iraq. 


Full Text: Pope Francis' speech to the United Nations


The 78-year-old South American pontiff also condemned global drug trafficking, which he said also leads to money laundering and human trafficking.

Francis was welcomed on Friday to the UN headquarters on New York's East River by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and dozens of waving children.

Prior to his speech, the pope held a brief meeting with the UN chief and addressed an estimated 350 staff of the world body. He also paid tribute to UN workers who died in the line of duty. 

Catholic Church in US hopes for papal boost

Francis was the fifth pope to visit the global body.

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the United Nations, said that while the pope did not offer specific policy statements, his stand on poverty and inequality mirrored the issues the world body wanted to solve. 

Francis, who has built a wide global following for his reform-minded views, is on a visit to the United States and earlier enjoyed a rousing reception in the capital Washington DC.

His agenda on Friday reflects both his global stature and his "of-the-people" approach, while taking him from the solemnity of ground zero to the struggles of East Harlem.

It also includes a meeting with schoolchildren and immigrants, and a mass for thousands at the Madison Square Garden arena.

In his speech in Washington DC on Thursday, Francis had earlier exhorted wealthy countries to "open doors" to migrants and refugees seeking better lives.

Also on Thursday, following his arrival in New York, Francis also offered prayers to the more than 700 Muslim pilgrims who died during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.   

Francis wraps up his US visit this weekend in Philadelphia, where he speaks in front of Independence Hall and celebrates Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to close out a big Catholic families rally.

The pope's agenda in New York includes meeting immigrants and celebrating a mass at Madison Square Garden arena [Al Jazeera/Hida Fouladvand]
Thousands of well-wishers greeted the pope on Friday as he made his way through the streets of New York [Al Jazeera/Hida Fouladvand]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies