Pope Francis has called on childless couples to adopt children and is urging institutions to make the process easier. He also condemned the practice of adopting pets instead of children, calling it a “form of selfishness.”
In his first general audience of the New Year, Pope Francis stressed the importance of parenthood, especially when so many children have been orphaned in the world.
He said every time a person takes on the responsibility of someone else’s life, the person is exercising a form of parenthood. The pope called on people not to fear choosing the path of adoption, saying it is among the highest forms of love and parenthood.
How many children in the world, Pope Francis said, are waiting for someone to look after them and how many couples would like to become parents but are unable for biological reasons. Adoption, he said, is a beautiful and generous act.
The pope said having a child is always a risk, whether that child is biologically one’s own or adopted. Rejecting parenthood, he said, is an even greater risk.
He said the problem is not only the number of orphans, but the fact many people do not want to have children, a situation he described as a “demographic winter.”
The pope said many couples have no children because they do not want them or they choose to have only one but then have two dogs, two cats. Yes, the pope said, dogs and cats take the place of children. This may make people laugh, he said, but it is the reality.
Pope Francis said people who choose to have pets instead of children are manifesting a form of selfishness.
In a statement, Massimo Comparotto, the president of Italy’s International Organization for the Protection of Animals, OIPA, was critical of the pope’s comments. He said, “It is evident that for Francis, animal life is less important than human life. But those who feel that life is sacred love life beyond species.”
The pope urged institutions to make it simpler for couples to adopt children and provide more assistance to families that do so.