Pope Francis on Saturday spoke about the vocation of Christian business executives to be missionaries in the world. He stressed they should respect their employees' needs.

"You are called to live the fidelity to the demands of the Gospel and the social doctrine of the Church in the family, in work, and in society," the Pope said. He addressed about 7,000 members of the Italian Christian Union of Business Executives gathered in Vatican City's Paul VI Hall Oct. 31.

The Pope encouraged the executives to live out what he referred to as their "entrepreneurial vocation" in a "lay missionary" spirit.

"This call to be missionaries in the social dimension of the Gospel in the difficult and complex world of work, economy, and business brings with it an opening and an evangelical closeness to different situations of poverty and fragility," he said.

He urged those present to be attentive to the quality of their employees' work lives, especially with regard to the balance between work and family life.

Pope Francis made special mention of women in the workplace. He said they face the challenge of protecting their right to work while "fully recognizing their vocation to maternity and to the presence in the family."

In off-the-cuff remarks, he recounted one challenge: "How many times has a women gone to her boss and said I am pregnant and at the end of the month she is let go?" he asked.

The Pope said the business executives' group aims to be "architects of development for the common good."

He said the upcoming Year of Mercy offers an opportunity for programs to promote charitable works. The year runs from Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, until Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

However, Pope Francis said it is not enough to simple make small acts of aid and charity. Such acts should be oriented to the "service of the person and the common good."

"You are called to cooperate in order to grow an entrepreneurial spirit of subsidiarity, to deal with the ethical challenges of the market and, above all the challenge of creating good employment opportunities," he said.

Pope Francis observed that the economy and companies require ethics in order to function. He explained that these ethics must be centered on the person and the community.

The Pope told the business leaders that when they commit to this end, "you will bear the fruit to the extent to which the Gospel will be alive and present in your hearts, in your mind, and in your actions."