Pope Francis drew a distinction between providing love and pastoral care to transgender people and attempts to change God-given precepts of gender by teaching children that our gender can be chosen according to our will.

Francis told Catholic News Service that as a priest, bishop and pope, he welcomed transgender people with homosexual tendencies, and "helped them draw closer to the Lord, although some couldn't. But [he] never abandoned them."

However, the pope said that while on his foreign trips to Georgia and other countries including his native country Argentina, he noted that children are studying in their textbooks that the "gender concept" is against nature and can be picked and chosen by people. He called it an 'ideological colonization.'

"It's one thing if a person has this tendency and also changes sex. It's another thing to teach this in school to change mentalities. This is what I call 'ideological colonization,'" he said.

He recounted that a Spanish father once told him that when he asked his son what he wanted to become after growing up, the boy replied, "A girl." Then the father came to know that the child was taught in school that gender is handpicked by will.

Pope added that this belief that men and women can choose a different biological sex was "a great enemy of marriage today."

"Today the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage," he said.

"We are living in a moment of annihilation of man as God's image," he had said in August.

In a published letter, he wrote that many countries were promoting "legal deconstruction of the family" by making laws that "international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish 'marriage' between persons of the same sex."

But in spite of his serious reservations about politicization of ideologies, he said that transgender people must never be turned away because Jesus would never do so.

"I want to be clear. It is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem," he said. "And it must be resolved the best one can -- always with the mercy of God, with the truth" and "always with an open heart."