Speaking on parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican, the pontiff lamented that pets “sometimes take the place of children” in society.
He said: “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’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”
Pope Francis said the practice “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”.
Thus, he added, “civilisation grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers”.
While his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was a cat lover, Francis is not known to have a pet at his Vatican residence.
In 2014, Francis told Il Messaggero daily that having pets instead of children was “another phenomenon of cultural degradation”, and that emotional relationships with pets was “easier” than the “complex” relationship between parents and children.
On Wednesday, Jan. 5, while inviting couples unable to have children for biological reasons to consider adoption, he urged potential parents “not to be afraid” of embarking on parenthood.
“Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child, in denying paternity,” he said.