LONDON -- Pope Francis decried abortion Monday as a sign of a wasteful modern culture that treats goods and people, including unborn children, as easily discarded commodities.

In the annual papal “state of the world” speech delivered to diplomats, Francis said the denial of human dignity was a threat to world peace, and cited the problems of hunger among the have-nots and food waste among the haves.

“Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” the pope said, according to excerpts released by the Vatican.

He added the use of children as soldiers and human trafficking to the list of crimes committed against the world’s young.

The comment on abortion was one of the few instances that Francis has addressed the issue in his 10-month-old papacy. Last September, he told an interviewer that the Roman Catholic Church needed to stop hammering on social controversies such as abortion and same-sex marriage and focus more on spreading God’s love to all.

Alarm among Catholic conservatives that he was watering down the church’s message on those issues led the pope to quickly reaffirm his opposition to abortion. Using the same phrase he employed Monday, Francis described abortion as a symptom of a “throwaway culture” that places little value on human life, the environment and natural resources.

His brief remarks on the subject Monday came toward the end of an address in which the pontiff cited the need for peace and reconciliation in various hot spots around the globe, including the Korean peninsula, the Middle East and Africa. He said he was troubled by instability in Lebanon, the civil war in Syria and political and religious violence in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

He expressed concern over the increasing hostility shown toward migrants and those trying to find better lives elsewhere. The pope’s first trip outside the Italian mainland last year was to the island of Lampedusa, which hundreds of people fleeing Africa have died trying to reach.

“Sadly, there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies, which is a dramatic sign of the loss of that sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters on which every civil society is based,” Francis said.

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Twitter: @HenryHChu

henry.chu@latimes.com