The pope has urged the mayor of Rome, provincial and regional authorities to tackle poverty and degradation in the city.

At the meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the left-wing mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, the pope highlighted the causes of poverty, such as inadequate pensions, unemployment, the threat to traditional family life and the high cost of housing. He mentioned the problems of violent crime and immigration in the city, referring in particular to the murder of a woman in December by an immigrant. He also said that he hoped Catholic hospitals would not be penalised by a lack of funds from the Lazio regional authorities.

The criticisms appear to have caught the mayor by surprise during what is normally considered to be a courtesy visit, and the pope