The pontiff's wide-ranging remarks included comments on the pro-democracy Arab Spring movement and the ecological catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, but his strongest words concerned religious freedom and violence, the Catholic News Service reported Tuesday.
"In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life. In other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and homes," the pope said in a reference to Christmas Day attacks on churches in Nigeria.
The speech before ambassadors to the Vatican Monday made repeated reference to the dignity of the individual.
"Respect for the person must be at the center of institutions and laws," he said.
The pope also brought Western nations to task for liberal abortion laws, urging governments to protect the right to life, calling it the most basic human right. He also stressed the importance of family "based on the marriage of a man and a woman."