Pope Francis addressed the European parliament on Tuesday and asked the region to make a unified and fair immigration policy, and said that the world sees Europe as "somewhat elderly and haggard." The pontiff's speech comes despite protests from several European groups about the propriety of a religious leader addressing a "secular parliament."

Pope Francis elaborated on a papal communication called Evangelii Gaudium published by him last November to exhort Europe to become more open, and shed its image abroad of being fearful and self-absorbed, BBC reported. He also said that he wanted to bring hope to Europeans who had grown to distrust their institutions, which are struggling to overcome the economic crisis. Earlier, several secular groups had reportedly written Martin Schulz, president of the European parliament, protesting against the pope's address.

"As the EU has expanded, there has been a growing mistrust of institutions they regard as aloof," the pope said, according to BBC, adding that he feels that there is a “vacuum of ideals in the West.”

"The great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions," the pope said, according to BBC.

In the Evangelii Gaudium, the religious leader had argued that free-market capitalism cannot be trusted and that inequality around the world could only be resolved by “rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets,” BBC reported.

“The time has come to promote policies which create employment, but above all there is a need to restore dignity to labor by ensuring proper working conditions," the pope said, according to Reuters, adding: "This implies, on the one hand, finding new ways of joining market flexibility with the need for stability and security on the part of workers; these are indispensable for their human development.”

The pope also called on Europe to take more steps to address the frequent accidents in the Mediterranean involving boats carrying illegal immigrants to the continent.

"There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” he said, according to Reuters, adding: “The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance.”