In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis lamented the suffering inflicted on families already struggling from poverty in countries torn by the "great predator" of war.

"Truly, war is the 'mother of all poverty,' the pontiff said Wednesday, addressing the crowds in Saint Peter's Square.

"War impoverishes the family," he said. It is "a great predator of lives, of souls, and of the most sacred and precious loved ones."

Since late last year, Pope Francis has been centering his Wednesday catechesis on the theme of family as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October's Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Continuing with his June 3 catechesis, the Pope centered his address around the particular difficulties which many families face, especially with regard to poverty.

He lamented the "misery" and "degradation" experienced by poor families inflicted by war, as well as those living in the peripheries.

Nonetheless, there are families who "persevere with dignity" and trust in God's goodness despite these challenges brought about by war and poverty, Pope Francis said. This does not "justify our indifference," however: rather, it should "increase our shame of the fact that there is so much poverty!"

The pontiff said we should be grateful to those families who save society by maintaining their integrity amid the challenges of poverty.

"It is a miracle that even in extreme situations families continue to be formed and sustained," he said, preserving the "special humanity of their relationships."

This is a point of irritation for those who consider family ties as secondary for the quality of life. "They understand nothing!" the Pope said.

"Rather, we should fall to our knees in front of these families," as they are a "true school of humanity which saves society from barbarism."

Pope Francis called for "a new civil ethics" which does not yield to blackmail, but reorganizes social ties in such a way as to prevent the "perverse spiral between family and poverty."

"Sadly, our modern economies often promote individual wellbeing at the expense of the family."

The Holy Father said it is not merely a question of food, but also of work, education, and health. We may be moved when we see images of malnourished and sick children. However, children understand that "man does not live by bread alone!"

This also pertains to the family: "When there is misery, children suffer because they want love, family connections."

Pope Francis reminded Christians of their responsibility to "strengthen and support" families, especially those that are poor.

He listed a series of factors which place a strain on the family and relationships: unemployment, dangerous working conditions, housing and transportation difficulties, reduced access to health and education.

Added to these factors is the image of the "pseudo-model family" as presented by mass media, which is based on "the cult of appearance."  

This, he said, "influences the poorest social class and increases the disregard for family connections."

Pope Francis called for the Church to live simply, both individually and institutionally, as it cares for families affected by poverty.

"The Church, as a mother, can never be blind to the sufferings of her children," he said.

By living simply, we can "break down walls of division and overcome all difficulties, especially poverty," he said. "A poorer Church will bear fruit for so many of her needy children."

He concluded by praying for commitment on the part of Christian families to helping the poor.