During his weekly General Audience message, Pope Francis urged couples to have children, saying those who choose to have pets instead are hurting themselves and society.
CNN reports the pope encouraged childbearing and adoption Wednesday in his message about Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus.
“Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption,” Pope Francis said. “But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual.”
Too many couples are choosing not to have children, and some are filling the relationship gap with pets instead, he said. These choices are creating a “demographic winter” in countries across the world where populations are aging and the elderly have no one to care for them, he continued, according to Vatican News. Birth rates are down in most of Europe, Asia and the United States, so much so that some countries now are offering incentives to encourage couples to have more children.
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“We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more,” the pope said. “And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats …
“Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children,” the pope said. “Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood. And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children.”
For infertile couples, the pope encouraged adoption, saying, “How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them.”
He concluded by praying that no child ever would be “deprived of a bond of paternal love.”
Pope Francis frequently speaks about the value of children, born and unborn. In September, he criticized the “throwaway” culture that makes abortion seem “normal.”
“There is the waste of children that we don’t want to welcome,” he said. “It is really a murder.” He added: “Is it right to eliminate, to take a human life to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? That’s what abortion is.”