Unfortunately, this is "the air" that children often breathe, he said, adding that the remedy is to make it so that they can breathe "a different air which is healthier, more human."
To accomplish this, the relationship between teachers and parents "is very important," he said.
Pope Francis also pointed to what he sees as the need for a greater ecological education, which he said doesn't consist of just a few notions that are taught in the classroom, but instead means educating students in a lifestyle based on care for creation and the common home.
He stressed the need for "a lifestyle that is not schizophrenic," such as that lived by those who care about animals going extinct but ignore the problems faced by the elderly, or those who defend the Amazon forest but neglect workers' right to a just salary.
"The ecology in which to educate must be integral," he said, adding that all education "must point to the sense of responsibility: not to transmit slogans that others should implement, but to rouse the taste of experiencing an ecological ethic starting from everyday choices and actions."
Francis also touched on the importance of making and being part of associations, saying they are a value that shouldn't be underestimated, but must rather be continually cultivated.
"I urge you to renew your will to be and make associations in the memory of the inspiring principles, in reading the signs of the times and with a gaze open to the social and cultural horizon," he said, and told participants not to be afraid of the challenges and even conflicts that can often arise in lay associations.
Rather than being hidden, these differences must be confronted "with an evangelic style in search of the true good of the association," he said, explaining that to be an association "is a value and a responsibility, which right now is entrusted to you."
Pope Francis closed his speech thanking the participants for their presence and their work, and asked for their prayers.
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.