Children Are Not the Cause of Poverty, Says Pope Francis


“Some people say that large families and the birth of so many children are among the causes of poverty,” said Pope Francis Wednesday, an opinion that he characterized as “simplistic.” The Pope pointed to economic systems that trample the human person as the true cause of poverty. “This is the main reason for poverty, not families,” he said.

During his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis summarized the events of his recent trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, stating, “The meetings with families and with young people in Manila were the highlights of my visit to the Philippines.” Under a light drizzle, Francis spoke to the tens of thousands gathered in the square of the importance of families.

“Families are essential to the healthy life of society,” the Pope said, noting that he was consoled and hopeful “to see so many families that welcome children as a true gift from God” and who “know that every child is a blessing.”

Rejecting the thesis that families with children are the cause of poverty, Francis said that “the main cause of poverty is an economic system that removes the person from the center and replaces him with the god of money.”

The Pope denounced “an economic system that excludes children, the elderly, the young, the unemployed, and that creates the culture of waste which we live.”

“We are used to seeing people discarded,” Francis said. “This is the main reason for poverty, not families.”

The Pope went on to emphasize the “need to protect families, who face various threats, so that they can bear witness to the beauty of the family in God’s plan.” He invited his hearers to “defend families from the new ideological colonization that threatens its identity and its mission.”

Francis had spoken of “ideological colonization” at his meeting with families in Manila, and on the flight back to Rome, he was asked what he meant. He answered with an example:

Twenty years ago, in 1995, a Minister of Education had asked for a substantial loan to build schools for the poor. She was given the loan on condition that a certain textbook be used in the schools for children of a certain level. The textbook, which was well written didactically, taught gender theory. This woman needed the loan money, but that was the condition.

“This is ideological colonization,” said the Pope. “They come to a people bringing an idea that is foreign to them,” he said. They “colonize the people with an idea” that attempts to change people’s “mindset or institutions,” he added.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.