Pope slams couples for having pets instead of kids

Pontiff promotes adoption and laments "demographic winter."

Pope Francis has returned to the theme of couples not having children, suggesting there is a "certain selfishness" in those who substitute pets for kids.

The pontiff, speaking on parenthood during the general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, repeated his recent lament about the "demographic winter" in the developed world.

"Many couples don't have children because they don't want to or they have just one child because they don't want others, but they have two dogs, two cats taking the place of children" - Francis said - "Yes, it's funny, I understand, but it's the reality."

The pope described the practice of not having children as a "denial of fatherhood and motherhood" that "diminishes us, takes away our humanity", resulting in "civilisation growing older and without humanity, because the richness of fatherhood and motherhood is lost."

Pope Francis also hailed adoption as "among the highest forms of love and fatherhood and motherhood", calling for authorities to make the process easier and urging couples not to be afraid to choose this path.

"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."

In 2014 Pope Francis warned married couples who choose not to have children that they are heading for an old age blighted by "the bitterness of loneliness".

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