VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis lamented that investment losses by banks trigger more alarm in the economic crisis than the struggle of people to feed their families, as he led a huge rally Saturday to invigorate the church's moral conscience, hours after he held talks at the Vatican about the economic crisis with Germany's leader.
Some 200,000 people, from Europe, Asia and the pope's native South America, filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets to join Francis in hours of prayer, music and speeches aimed at encouraging Catholics to strengthen their faith and making morality play a greater role in everyday life.
''If investments, the banks plunge, this is a tragedy, if families are hurting, if they have nothing to eat, well, this is nothing, this is our crisis today," Francis told the crowd, insisting that the true crisis is one of morale values.
Francis said his church "opposes this mentality" and pledged that it will be dedicated to "the poor people."
Earlier in the day, the pope met privately with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who made a brief visit to Rome, mindful of the importance of Christian voters back home ahead of an election she faces in September. She joined the pope in expressing concern about the many victims of Europe's economic crisis.
Merkel said the ''simple and touching words" of Francis, who was elected pontiff two months ago, are already reaching people.
Merkel, asked by reporters about the pope's scathing criticism of the global financial system, said they had spoken about regulation of financial markets.