Pope Francis today criticised couples who choose not to have children or to have just one child and then go on to compound this by owning pets.
Dogs and cats are too often “taking the place” of children, he said. Civilisation is becoming older, and the “richness” of motherhood and fatherhood is being lost.
Delivering his catechesis on Saint Joseph, the “putative father of Jesus”, in the Paul VI Hall with pilgrims from Italy and worldwide, Pope Francis prayed that St Joseph would awaken consciences and persuade people to have children.
He described how adoption was a common practice in ancient times in the East.
“As the official father of Jesus, Joseph exercises the right to name his son, legally recognising him. Legally he is the father, but not generatively, he did not generate him,” he said.
He described adoption as “among the highest forms of love and fatherhood and motherhood”.
Pope Francis said: “How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them. And how many spouses wish to be fathers and mothers but fail for biological reasons; or, even though they already have children, they want to share family affection with those who have been deprived of it. We must not be afraid to choose the path of adoption.”
And he went on to detail a recent discussion he had about contemporary demographics.
“The other day, I was talking about the demographic winter that there is today: people don't want to have children, or just one and nothing more.
“And many couples do not have children because they do not want or have only one because they do not want others, but they have two dogs, two cats ... Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it's funny, I understand, but it's reality. And this denying paternity and motherhood diminishes us, takes away humanity.
“And thus civilisation becomes older and without humanity, because the richness of fatherhood and motherhood is lost. And the homeland suffers, which has no children and, as one humorously said, ‘and now who will pay the taxes for my pension, that there are no children? Who will take care of me?”
“He laughed, but it’s the truth,” the Pope said. “I ask St Joseph for the grace to awaken consciences and think about this: to have children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of a person's life. Think about this. It is true, there is spiritual fatherhood for those who consecrate themselves to God and spiritual motherhood; but those who live in the world and get married must think about having children, about giving their life, because they will be the ones who will close their eyes, who will think about their future.
“And also, if you can't have children, think about adoption. It is a risk, yes: having a child is always a risk, both natural and adopted. But it is more risky not to have any. It is more risky to deny paternity, to deny motherhood, both the real and the spiritual. A man and a woman who voluntarily do not develop a sense of fatherhood and motherhood are missing something main, important.”