Pope slams couples who have pets instead of children as selfish

Pope Francis has blasted couples who have pets instead of children as 'selfish'.

According to the head of the Catholic Church, choosing to care for an animal rather than a child "takes away our humanity".

Speaking from the Vatican to a general audience the pope issued a rallying cry for followers to get making babies which he says will solve the West's "demographic winter".

Even parents of one child could not escape the firing line as Pope Francis encouraged them to add to their brood by adoption if necessary.

Pope Francis said at the Paul VI Hall: "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."

He added that looking after pets instead of raising youngsters "is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity".

Without children the Church leader said "civilisation grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers".

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He said: "Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child, in denying paternity."

Unlike his cat-loving Vatican predecessor Benedict XVI, Francis is not thought to own a pet.

But snaps from years gone by prove Pope Francis has not always had a problem with the four-legged kind, MailOnline reports.

He has been pictured stroking dogs, carrying a baby lamb over his shoulders during Epiphany in 2014 and has seemingly enjoyed encounters with big cats including a young circus tiger.

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In the same year Francis told Il Messaggero daily that having pets instead of children was "another phenomenon of cultural degradation".

He explained that maintaining an emotional relationship with animals is "easier" than the "complex" one of parents and children.

The pope addressed the issue on Wednesday that not everyone will be able to have kids biologically.

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He was quick to remind his audience that alternatives along the lines of adoption are available and urged potential parents "not to be afraid".

And asked for the process of adopting to be made easier "so that the dream of so many children who need a family, and of so many spouses who wish to give themselves in love, can come true."

Pope Francis added: "This kind of choice is among the highest forms of love, and of fatherhood and motherhood. How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them?!"

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