VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has convened a special meeting of bishops from Amazon-area countries with a focus on indigenous peoples' needs he says are often neglected in the environmentally-delicate region.

In St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Francis explained that the synod was requested by the region's bishops and pastors from elsewhere.

With the Vatican's blessing, Latin American bishops in 2014 established a pan-Amazon initiative to advocate for local peoples, especially on environmental issues, in nine countries.

Francis announced that the synod will take place in Rome in October 2019 mainly to map new paths for evangelization, especially for indigenous peoples "often forgotten and lacking prospects for a serene future, also because of the Amazon forest crisis."

A native Argentine, Francis has repeatedly stressed a moral obligation to save Earth from environmental harm.