VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has rejected the “simplistic” belief that large families are among the causes of poverty, stressing that economic systems that create a culture of waste are to blame.
“Families know they are essential to the life of society,” the Pope said Jan. 21 during his first weekly general audience since returning from his Jan. 12-19 tour of Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
Speaking to the crowds gathered in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father recalled his Jan 16. meeting with 1,000 families in Manila, one of the main events of his visit to the Philippines.
“It gives consolation and hope to see many large families who welcome children as a true gift of God,” he said.
Having heard it said that large families are among the causes of poverty, the Pope described this belief as “a simplistic opinion.”
“I can say, we can all say, that the principle cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the center and has put in his place the money-god: an economic system that always excludes children, elderly, the unemployed and creates the culture of waste in which we live.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis added: “We are accustomed to seeing rejected people. This is the principle reason for poverty, not large families.”
Reflecting on St. Joseph, who was tasked to protect the Santo Niño (Holy Child), the Pope reiterated the importance of protecting the family against the “new ideological colonization, which threatens its identity and mission. The cure for poverty is a fundamental element of our life and Christian witness: It involves the rejection if every form of corruption, which robs the poor,” while demanding “a culture of honesty.”
Throughout his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis noted the “profound faith, religiosity and enthusiasm” of the Filipino people.
He recalled his meeting with victims of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and the accidental death of Catholic Relief Services Kristel Padasas during the Jan. 17 Mass in Tacloban.
The Pope lauded those who brought aid to people affected by the typhoon. “The power of God's love, revealed in the mystery of the cross, was made evident in the spirit of solidarity demonstrated by the many acts of charity and sacrifice that marked those dark days,” he said.
The Holy Father then recalled his meeting with the Filipino youth, during which he sought to encourage them in their efforts to bring renewal to society, “especially through service to the poor and safeguarding of the natural surroundings.”
Speaking on his trip to Sri Lanka, the first stop on his weeklong journey, Pope Francis highlighted the two central events of the visit: the canonization of St. Joseph Vaz and the visit to Our Lady of Madhu shrine.
The Pope described St. Joseph Vaz as a “model for all Christians,” whose “example of holiness and love for the other continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka in its apostolate of charity and education.”
Citing the country's decades-long civil war, Pope Francis recalled the reoccurring theme of reconciliation, centering on his visit to the Marian shrine of Madhu. Located in the north of the country, the sanctuary is an important site of pilgrimage for people from different ethnic groups and religions: “In this holy place, we asked Mary, our mother, to obtain the gift of unity and peace for all the Sri Lankan people.”