Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of Catholics, has described surrogacy as "despicable" and called for a global ban.

In his address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican, Pope Francis listed major crises such as war, migration and climate change, as well as threats to peace and human dignity, including surrogacy.

"I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogacy, which is based on the exploitation of the material needs of the mother and represents a serious violation of the dignity of the woman and the child," Francis said, adding that the life of the unborn child must be protected and not turned into an object of commerce.

Emphasizing that the child is a gift and "never the basis of a commercial contract," the pope called for a universal ban on the practice.

Pope Francis has previously expressed his opposition to this practice, which the Catholic Church calls "womb for hire". However, the Vatican's doctrinal office has made it clear that gay parents who apply for surrogacy can have their children baptized.