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Pope Francis reminded government officials attending Expo Milano 2015 – a food-themed exhibition starting today (1 May) – of the millions of people suffering from hunger and starvation around the world.

Via a video address, the pontiff urged visitors to the exhibition in Milan not to be distracted by the shining pavilions and the delicacies they offered but to focus on the exhibition's theme of Feeding the Planet and Energy for Life, instead.

Saying he spoke in the name of the many world poor who struggle to afford food, he said: "Expo is a great chance to globalise solidarity, let's try not to waste it."

"Let us not let its essential theme to remain only a theme," he added, reminding the audience of the "faces of the millions of people who today are hungry and will not eat like each human being deserves".

According to the Expo website, the event focuses on innovative ways to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for the world's expanding population, "while respecting the planet and its equilibrium".

Being also a tiny country, the Holy See is the only religious powerhouse to have its own pavilion at the fair.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the pontifical council for culture, said construction and management of the site cost Vatican coffers a total of €3m (£2.2m $3.3m).

"We wanted to keep it as sober as possible," Monsignor Luca Bressan, the episcopal vicar for culture at Milan diocese, told IBTimes UK.

"The theme of the exhibition goes along perfectly with the Catholic faith," he said. "We consider it an investment into education related to this subject."

Titled Not by Bread Alone. At the Lord's Table with all Mankind, the Vatican pavilion is centred on a subject dear to the pontiff: the fight against what he says is modern society's "culture of waste".

"The Holy See looks to offer its visitors a space for reflection on issues that persist today, related to food and access to food," the Vatican explains on the Expo website.

As a consequence, the Vatican will be the only country that is to introduce the theme of fasting into an exhibition that is to go down in history as a massive food feast, Bressan explained.

Holy See officials will also use the Expo also as a diplomatic platform to mend strained relations with Turkey.

Ahead of the exhibition opening, Turkish deputy economy minister Adnan Yildirim's invited Pope Francis and Holy See officials to visit Ankara's pavillion as a gesture of goodwill to ease tensions following Pope Francis's use of the word "genocide" to describe the mass killing of Armenians under Ottoman rule a century ago.

The invitation was accepted by Cardinal Ravasi who likewise invited Turkish officials to the Vatican stand. It is not yet known if Pope Francis will visit the exhibition in person over the next six months.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians were massacred by Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1916, in what many historians say was the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey strongly denies the deaths constituted genocide, claiming that the death toll has been inflated, ascribing the killing to fighting and starvation during War World I.