Pope Francis said Wednesday that people adopting pets instead of children displayed “some form of selfishness” when he presided over his first general audience in the new year.
“How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them,” said the Pope in a speech in the Vatican. “And how many spouses want to become a father and mother, but cannot do so for biological reasons; or even though they already have children, they want to share their family’s affection with those who have no children. “
Francis’ catechism lesson focused on the figure of Joseph, whom Francis said was the “foster father” of Jesus.
He reiterated his call to couples to have more children to meet the “demographic winter” in much of the West, saying that those unable to have children should be open to adoption.
Today, “we see some form of selfishness … we see that people don’t want to have children,” he said.
“Sometimes they only have one (child) and that’s it, but they have two dogs, two cats,” he said. “Yes, dogs and cats are replacing the children,” he added. “Yeah, it’s funny, I see, but it’s reality.”
He added that adopting “is one of the highest forms of love, fatherhood, and motherhood”.
To underscore his call for a less clericalized Catholic Church, for the first time a lay person and a nun provided the English and Spanish translations of Francis’ weekly catechism lesson in place of a veiled monsignor, a small but revolutionary change for the Vatican.
At the general audience on Wednesday, the Vatican Monsignors of the State Secretariat provided the summarizing translations. On Wednesday the clergy only read the translations in French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish and Italian.
The Vatican announced the change ahead of time, saying that from Wednesday “men and women, religious and lay people from several dicasteries of the Roman Curia will be present at the general audience to read the greetings in different languages”.
During almost nine years of his pontificate, Francis has often criticized the element of Catholic culture that places priests on a pedestal and has campaigned for the “people of God” to take their rightful place in the Church.
In particular, he urged women to take on leadership positions and has called a handful of women religious to important positions in the Vatican, although none of them lead a Vatican congregation. He is currently leading a biennial consultation of lay Catholics around the world to understand the needs and wants of ordinary believers and how the Church can better serve them.