Pope Francis: Society loses when ‘dogs and cats take the place of children’

Pope Francis: Society loses when ‘dogs and cats take the place of children’ Pope Francis speaks during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican January 5, 2022. Photo: CNS.

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that it is a civilisational loss when dogs and cats replace children in society, encouraging couples to “take the risk” to become parents.

“The other day, I was talking about the demographic winter that we have today … many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats,” Pope Francis said at his general audience on January 5.

“Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality, and this denial of fatherhood and motherhood diminishes us, takes away humanity.”

Speaking in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the Pope said that with this “selfishness” on the part of some couples, “civilisation becomes older” as the “richness of fatherhood and motherhood is lost.”

“I ask St Joseph for the grace to awaken consciences and think about this: about having children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of a person’s life. Think about this,” he said.

The Pope’s first general audience of 2022 was marked by some changes. The Vatican announced on January 5 that from now on religious and lay Vatican employees would read the greetings in different languages at the Wednesday audience.

For the first time, lay men and women read the language greetings. Sister Andrea Lorena Chacón, a member of the Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth, read the Spanish-language greeting, while Christopher Wells, an employee of Vatican Radio, was the English reader.

At the live-streamed audience, the Pope continued his series of meditations on the life of St Joseph by focusing on the saint’s role as the foster father of Jesus.

“This particular aspect of Joseph allows us today to reflect on fatherhood and motherhood. And this, I believe, is very important: to think about fatherhood today because we live in an era of notorious orphanhood,” Pope Francis said.

The Pope said that one can sense a feeling of orphanhood among many people.

“May St Joseph, who took the place of the real father, God, help us to understand how to resolve this sense of orphanhood that is so harmful to us today,” the Pope said.

Pope Francis spent much of his audience speaking about “accepting life through the path of adoption,” which he called “a generous and beautiful” act.

“Joseph shows us that this type of bond is not secondary, it is not an afterthought. This kind of choice is among the highest forms of love and fatherhood and motherhood,” he 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, although 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, to take the ‘risk’ of acceptance.”

Pope Francis underlined that “having a child is always a risk, both natural and adopted.” But he added that “it is more risky not to have any.”

“It is more risky to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it physical and the spiritual. A man and a woman who voluntarily do not develop a sense of fatherhood and motherhood are missing something fundamental, important. Think about this, please,” he said.

“I hope that the institutions will always be ready to help regarding adoption by seriously monitoring, but also simplifying the process necessary for the dream of many little ones who need a family to come true, and of many spouses who wish to give of themselves in love.”

Courtney Mares/ CNA