VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is urging Italian mayors to redouble their efforts to welcome migrants and refugees and promote ways to integrate them into their new communities.

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At the weekly general audience Sep. 27, Francis extended his arms wide toward St. Peter’s square and called faithful to welcome migrants and refugees.

“Just like this,” the pope said, “arms wide open, ready for a sincere, affectionate, enveloping embrace.”

In a meeting Saturday with the mayors, Francis said he understood the difficulties of providing accommodation and services for the waves of migrants who have arrived in Italy in recent years. But he called for a new ethics-based model of local leadership “that doesn’t leave those who arrive on our territory on the margins,” and creates spaces for people to meet and get to know one another.

He said: “It’s not about building higher towers, but expanding piazzas.”

This week Francis launched Caritas Internationalis’s “Share the Journey” campaign, inviting all Catholics to extend a hand of welcome to a migrant or refugee. Francis is urging politicians and people to go out and meet migrants and hear their stories, rather than considering them faceless statistics.

Crux staff contributed to this report.