Pope sparks fury by hitting out at ‘selfish’ couples who choose pets over children

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The news comes as the Head of the Catholic Church was speaking on parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican, the pontiff lamented that pets “sometimes take the place of children” in society. Such comments risked the ire of the world’s childless dog and cat owners by suggesting people who substitute pets for children exhibit “a certain selfishness”.

Speaking at the event, Pope Francis said: “Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child,”

He added: “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.”

The head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics went on to say the fact pets were being chosen over children “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”.

The comments sparked a volley of comments from angry people on Twitter.

Gary H said: “Man who chooses career over having children calls other childless people selfish.”

Linda WS also argued along the same line.

She said: “Well, enlighten the world, how many kids does he have?”

Simona said: “The Pope criticizing people because they don’t have children but they have “multiple pets,” are we at that again?”

She added: “Makes me want to get three more cats and a couple of dogs.”

Urging people to take to social media and reply to the Pope’s comments, Krist Thelord said: “Post your cute pets for the Pope.”

They added: “He’s having an out of touch with reality and humanity day.”

They ended with the hastag: “PetsForThePope”.

Cate said: “What the heck? You know I have kids, I’ve always wanted to, but no way anyone, the Pope any less, is allowed to criticize people for deciding to not have them, it’s totally a personal choice. And pets? Love is love”

Ray added to the argument by saying: “I was raised Catholic and I reckon that is the most idiotic thing I have heard from a leader.”

Pope Francis has been photographed petting dogs, allowing a baby lamb to be draped over his shoulders during Epiphany in 2014 and even petted a tiger and a panther cub.

But while his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was a cat lover, Francis is not known to have a pet at his Vatican residence.

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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, while inviting couples who are unable to have children for biological reasons to consider adoption, he urged potential parents “not to be afraid” in embarking on parenthood.

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

On the issue of adoption, the Pope called on Wednesday for simplified adoption procedures.

The pontiff has in the past denounced the “demographic winter”, or falling birth rates in the developed world.

Previously he has criticised modern society and the view career and money-making trumps building a family for many, calling such a mentality “gangrene for society”.

In his New Year’s message, the Pope called on more protection for women, saying: “How much violence is directed against women! Enough!”

He added: “To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity.”

While pledging to give women greater roles in the church, Francis also said the priesthood will stay reserved for men.

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