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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has lamented that children are being taught at school that gender can be a choice, adding that his predecessor, Benedict XVI has labeled current times "the epoch of sin against God the Creator."
Francis weighed in with his view on gender and what he said was that of the emeritus pontiff while meeting privately last week with bishops from Poland during his pilgrimage there. The Vatican released a transcript Tuesday of those closed-door remarks.
The pope said he wanted to conclude his remarks by reflecting on this: "We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God."
Francis said: "Today, in schools they are teaching this to children -- to children! -- that everyone can choose their gender."
Without specifying, he blamed this on textbooks supplied by "persons and institutions who donate money." The pope blamed what he called "ideological colonizing" backed by "very influential countries" which he didn't identify, adding "this is terrible."
One such "colonization" he said -- "I'll say it clearly with its first and last name -- is gender."
The "colonization" theme is one he has railed against before, including during an Asian pilgrimage in 2015.
This time, though, he volunteered that he has discussed the gender issue with Benedict, who has lived at the Vatican since retiring in 2013.
"Speaking with Pope Benedict, who is well, and has a clear mind, he was telling me: 'Holiness, this is the epoch of sin against God the Creator.' He's intelligent! God created man and woman, God created the world this way, this way, this way, and we are doing the opposite," Francis told the Polish bishops Wednesday shortly after his arrival in Krakow at the start of a five-day pilgrimage.
Francis' ended by telling the Polish bishops he wanted them to reflect on this: "We must think about what Pope Benedict said -- 'It's the epoch of sin against God the Creator.'"