Pope Francis (L) arrives to conduct his weekly general audience at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican November 27, 2013. Photo: Reuters
Pope Francis took on the issue of high youth unemployment in his first interview aired exclusively in his home country of Argentina on Wednesday, warning that today's "throwaway culture" had discarded a generation of young Europeans.
A day after issuing an 84-page platform for his eight-month-old papacy that blasted unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny," the pontiff used the interview aired on the TN TV channel to link high European unemployment to its twin problem of neglecting older people who are past their earning prime.
"Today we are living in unjust international system in which 'King Money' is at the center," he said in the interview.
"It's a throwaway culture that discards young people as well as its older people. In some European countries, without mentioning names, there is youth unemployment of 40 percent and higher," he added. "A whole generation of young people does not have the dignity that is brought by work."
European leaders pledged earlier this month to make fighting youth unemployment a priority but came up with no new ideas to tackle a problem that risks fueling social unrest.
Nearly 6 million people under the age of 25 are without work in the European Union, with jobless rates among the young at close to 60 percent in Spain and Greece.
Francis' skepticism of free markets and concern about the lack of ethics in finance were shared by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. But Francis' unassuming style and rejection of the traditional trappings of office lend his words particular weight.
"A people that cares neither for its youth nor for its older people has no future," the pope said. "Young people take society into the future, while the older generation gives society its memory, its wisdom."
Previously archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis in March became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years. He is the first South American pope.
Francis has called for a more austere Church that sides with the poor, and has promised to clean up the murky finances of the Vatican bank.