VATICAN CITY, Italy: Wading into a debate noted for its toxicity on social media, the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, Pope Francis, said that couples who prefer pets to children are selfish, and substituting pets for children “takes away our humanity,” he said.
During a general audience at the Vatican this week, the Pope noted, “Today, we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that is it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh, but it is a reality.”
Substituting pets for children is “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity,” he added, stressing the consequence was that “civilisation grows old without humanity, because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers.”
While stating that those unable to have children for biological reasons might consider adoption, he urged couples “not to be afraid” of embarking on parenthood, affirming, “Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child.”
Pope Francis, who has previously denounced the falling birthrates in the developed world, which he called the “demographic winter,” is not known to have a pet at his Vatican residence, but he has been photographed with animals.
In 2014, he told Il Messaggero newspaper that having pets instead of children was “another phenomenon of cultural degradation,” and emotional relationships with pets were easier than the “complex” relationship between parents and children.
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