Pope Francis has said that the children of gay couples and divorced parents are the Catholic Church's new challenge.

The pontiff made his remarks in a speech to the Catholic Union of Superiors General in November. The Italian Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica on Saturday published extracts from the speech.

“Education today is a key, key, key mission!” the pope said.

The Holy Father recalled some experiences of children who live in complex situations in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“I remember the case of a very sad little girl who finally confided to her teacher the reason for her state of mind: 'my mother's girlfriend doesn't like me.' The percentage of children studying in schools who have separated parents is very high. The situation in which we live now provides us with new challenges which sometimes are difficult for us to understand. How can we proclaim Christ to these boys and girls? How can we proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing?”

“We must be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith to them,” he added.

La Civilta Cattolica replaced the word “girlfriend” with “fiance” in its English version.