ROME — Pope Francis began his four-day visit to Portugal for World Youth Day by blasting capitalism, populism, and insufficient attention to migrants and climate change.
“At a time when we are witnessing in many places a climate of protest and unrest, fertile terrain for populism and conspiracy theories, World Youth Day represents a chance to build together,” the pontiff told civil authorities and diplomats gathered in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.
Lamenting a lack of greater global cohesiveness, the pope cautioned that “planetary injustices, wars, climate and migration crises seem to run faster than the ability, and often the willingness, to face these challenges together.”
“According to classical mythology, the ocean is a child of the sky (Uranus); its vastness leads mortals to look up and rise to infinity,” Francis said. “But, at the same time, the ocean is the son of the earth (Gea) that embraces, thus inviting to envelop the entire inhabited world with tenderness.”
In this first major address of his visit, the pope underscored three “construction sites of hope” in which the whole world can work together: the environment, the future, and fraternity.
But the global problem of the environment “remains extremely serious,” he stated, and “the oceans are heating, and their depths bring to the surface the ugliness with which we have polluted our common home.”
“We are turning large reserves of life into plastic landfills,” he continued. “The ocean reminds us that human life is called to harmonize with an environment greater than ourselves, which must be guarded…with care, thinking of the younger generations.”
Speaking of the future, Francis warned against the “downward phase of the demographic curve” experienced by Europe and the West, suggesting that “the future asks us to counteract the falling birth rate and the decline in the desire to live.”
“Today, more than ever, it is called to correct the economic imbalances of a market that produces wealth but does not distribute it, impoverishing souls of resources and certainties,” he added.
Regarding fraternity, the pope emphasized the need to downplay cultural and religious differences in order to build a global community.
“How beautiful it is to rediscover ourselves as brothers and sisters, to work for the common good, leaving behind contrasts and differences of views!” he said.
“Here, too, there are examples of young people who, with their cry for peace and their desire for life, lead us to break down the rigid fences of membership erected in the name of different opinions and creeds,” he declared.
As he has done frequently, Francis also criticized a reigning “throwaway culture,” especially concerning human life.
“In today’s evolved world, it has paradoxically become a priority to defend human life, put at risk by utilitarian drifts, which use and discard it: the culture of throwaway life,” he stated. “I think of so many unborn children and so many elderly people abandoned to their own devices.”
One would have to ask, he said, “Where are you sailing, Europe and the West, with the discard of the old, the walls of barbed wire, the massacres at sea, and empty cradles? Where are you sailing?”
“Where do you go if, in the face of the evil of living, you offer hasty and wrong remedies, such as easy access to death, a convenient solution that appears sweet but, in reality, is more bitter than the waters of the sea?” he said. “And I think of so many sophisticated laws on euthanasia.”