Pope Francis told the journalists who accompanied him on his trip three African countries that children are the treasure of a country and that the demographic winter looming on Europe has “wellbeing” at its root.
Answering a question about youth from an African journalist, the Pope said that Africa is a young continent, it has young life, if we compare it to Europe. “I will repeat what I said in Strasburg: mother Europe has almost become “grandmother Europe”. IT has grown old, we are experiencing a very serious demographic winter in Europe.
“I read of a government statistic that states that in a particular country, though I do not remember which country, in 2050, there will be more pensioners than working people, this is tragic. What is the origin of this ageing of Europe?”, the Pope asked.
“I think – but this is a personal opinion of mine – that well-being is at the root. Being attached to wellbeing – “We are comfortable, I am not having children because I need to buy a villa, I want to go on holiday, I’m fine like this, a child is a risk, you never know…”
Africa is full of life
“But this wellbeing and tranquillity is something that will age you. Instead, Africa is full of life. I found in Africa a gesture that I had come across in the Philippines, and in Cartagena, in Columbia.
“The people who raised their children in the air, as if to say, “this is my treasure, this is my victory, my pride”. Children are the treasure of the poor. But they are the treasure of a homeland, of a country. I saw the same gesture in Eastern Europe, in Iași, especially that grandmother showing the child: this is my triumph.
“You have the task of educating these young people and of making laws for these young people. Education is the priority in your country at the moment. It is a priority that one grows, having laws on formation.
The Pope confided that “the Prime Minister of Mauritius spoke to me about this. He said he had in mind the challenge of developing a free education system for all. The gratuitousness of the educational system: it is important because there are high quality educational centres, but at a fee. There are educational centres in all countries, but they need to be multiplied so that education reaches everyone. At the moment, the laws on education and health are the priority there”.
On xenophobia the Pope said that this is not only an African problem. “It is a human disease, like measles. It is a disease that enters a country, enters a continent, and we build walls. But walls leave only those who built them. Yes, they leave out many people, but those who remain inside the walls will be left alone, and in the end, they will be defeated by great invasions.
“Xenophobia is a disease. It is a disease that is “justifiable”, for example, to maintain the purity of the race – just to mention a form of xenophobia from the last century. And very often, xenophobia rides the waves of political populism. I said last week, or the one before, that sometimes in some places I hear speeches being given that sound similar to those made by Hitler in ’34. It’s as if they wanted to return to the past in Europe.
“But in Africa there is also cultural problem that have to be solved. I remember speaking about it in Kenya: tribalism. There you must educate, in order to bring together different tribes, to create a nation.
“Not long ago, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide: that is an effect of tribalism. I remember in Kenya, in the stadium, when I asked everyone to stand up, shake hands, and say “no to tribalism… no to tribalism…” We have to say no. It is about closure.
“There is also domestic xenophobia, but a xenophobia nonetheless. We must fight against this: both the xenophobia of one country towards another, and internal xenophobia, which in the case of some places in Africa and along with tribalism, leads to tragedies such as that of Rwanda”, concluded Pope Francis.