Pope Francis took eight children rescued from crisis-hit Libya for a ride in his popemobile Wednesday, the youngsters grinning and snapping photos as they whizzed round Saint Peter's Square.

The children, wearing T-shirts reading "Welcome, Protect, Promote, Integrate", hailed from Syria, Nigeria and the Congo, and were airlifted out of Libya along with their families on April 29.

A smiling Francis took them on board for a ride around the packed square during his weekly general audience, stopping several times along the way to kiss and bless babies held up to him from the crowd.

The Argentine pontiff has repeatedly called on the international community to do more for those seeking shelter in Europe from war, famine, poverty or persecution -- a hot-button issue at the upcoming EU parliament elections.

At the end of the audience, Francis also met and thanked a delegation from Save the Children, an organisation present in numerous war zones and which is celebrating its centenary year.