Pope Francis gestures to newlywed couples during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 21. CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

Poverty stems from unjust economic system, not big families, Pope says

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • January 21, 2015

VATICAN CITY - Families who have lots of children do not cause poverty, Pope Francis said.

The main culprit is "an economic system that has removed the human person from its focus and has placed the god of money" as its priority instead, he said Jan. 21.

The Pope dedicated his general audience talk to a review of some of the highlights from his visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines Jan. 13-19.

Speaking to some 7,000 people gathered in the Paul VI audience hall, the Pope recalled his second apostolic journey to Asia after visiting South Korea last August.

He said he wanted to encourage Catholics in their faith and missionary zeal as well as promote interreligious dialogue, peace, unity and social development by highlighting the important role families and young people should play.

Meetings with families and young people in Manila were a major high point on his trip, he said, because they showed how "healthy families are essential to the life of society."

"It gives consolation and hope to see so many large families that welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing," he said.

He criticized as "simplistic" claims that high birth rates caused poverty.

Rather, an economic system that creates "a culture of disposal," where men, women and children are excluded "is the main reason for poverty, not large families," he said to applause.

He reiterated the importance of showing "the beauty of the family in God's plan" and defending it from the many threats and new forms of "ideological colonization that attack its identity and mission."

On the flight back from Manila to Rome, the Pope told journalists Jan. 19 that "for the people who are the poorest, a child is a treasure" and "God knows how to help them."

But he also underlined that being a good Catholic did not mean married couples "had to be like rabbits," that is, have children "one after the other" without any sense of responsibility.

Through dialogue with each other, their pastors and church groups, each couple can seek to discern its own "parental responsibility" and recognize there are "licit" means, through natural family planning, to be "prudent" and generous in welcoming life, he said on the papal plane.

In his audience talk Jan. 21, Pope Francis said another important message he highlighted on his trip to Asia was that "taking care of the poor is an essential element of our Christian life and witness."

This entails "refusing every form of corruption because corruption steals from the poor and demands a culture of honesty," he said to applause.

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