Controlling populations is not the answer in fighting poverty and protecting the environment, says a leading official for the Catholic aid federation, Caritas Internationalis. “We do not see that population control, the way it is being thought by many, is the right way to go forward,” Caritas secretary general Michel Roy said in an interview with CNA. The question of sustaining the planet is not approached “by suppressing people,” he said. Roy has been in Rome for Caritas International's 20th general assembly which has been running from May 12-17 on the theme: “One human family, care for creation.” While the protection of the environment is being addressed over the course of this week's meetings, Roy said caring for the poor lies at the heart of this year's gathering. “We really need to rethink our ways of living, always starting from the poor,” he said: “to listen to them, to learn from them, and to ask them to lead, to think of the society they want to live in.” Roy said what really creates problems in the area of poverty for today's secularized world is consumerism. “When people become too individualistic, when there is no solidarity in the family, in the community, when you fall into poverty, it’s a real tragedy.” In contrast: “The answer to poverty lies in relationship, and lies in solidarity.” Roy spoke about collaborating with the international community in helping to protect the environment and combat hunger. He cited the United Nations General Assembly's upcoming adoption of sustainable laws on Sept. 25, and the upcoming climate summit in Paris in late November which will center on reducing the impact of climate change. Critics have raised concerns about the Vatican’s collaboration with the U.N. on environmental protection, taking into account that the U.N. promotes population control as a means of combating climate change. Pope Francis met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the Vatican late April, during which they discussed the pontiff’s upcoming encyclical on protecting the environment. Addressing the criticism, Roy said: “We are who we are. They (the U.N.) know who we are. If they want to work with us, they have to accept the values that we are promoting.” Saying it is necessary to work with the U.N., since is a “community of nations,” the Caritas official said: “we have to challenge them as well.” “They are calling on us because they know what we do at the grassroots is probably the best work against poverty that is being done.” Held once every four years, the aim of the 2015 assembly is to outline and design the goals for the next quadriennal term, as well as to elect new leadership. On Thursday, the delegates elected Cardinal Luis Tagle as the federation’s newest president, and first to hail from Asia. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga stepped down from the role as Caritas president, having served two mandates from 2007-2011, and 2011-2015. This year's Caritas assembly comes just ahead of Pope Francis’ anticipated encyclical on environmental degradation and the global effects of climate change on the poor. Expected to be published in mid-late June, the document has already been written and is currently being translated.