Pope Francis on Wednesday offered a ride on his popemobile to eight children of migrants who recently arrived in Italy from war-torn Libya.

The children toured St Peter’s Square with the Pope in his white open-topped jeep, ahead of Francis’ weekly audience with the faithful.

After the audience, the children gave the Pope a giant red heart-shaped banner with their signatures and the message: “Thank you Pope Francis.’’

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti tweeted a picture of it.

“Some of the children were flown to Italy in late April via a `humanitarian corridor’ backed by the Italian Interior Ministry.

“Others arrived via migrant boat a few months ago,’’ Gisotti said in a separate statement.

Gisotti said that the children from Syria, Nigeria and Congo, are being hosted in a Catholic shelter near Rome and looked after by a private charity.

Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, is an outspoken advocate for solidarity towards migrants and refugees, although he has also spoken in favour of reasonable limits to immigration.