Pontiff warns against pets replacing kids amid Italy’s demographic crisis
By Jenn Gidman,
In numerous countries in the EU, birth rates are declining, including in Italy, which could lose nearly 20% of its residents by 2050. Those stats are apparently putting Pope Francis on edge, enough to spur him to warn Italian citizens not to let their anxieties about the future keep them from having children—and no, pets don’t count as children. The pontiff spoke publicly about the issue Friday, appearing at a conference on Italy’s demographics alongside Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who ran her campaign in 2022 on the platform of “God, family, fatherland,” per ABC News.
Francis slammed “selfish, egotistical” choices being made that are contributing to the population problem, telling the audience of pro-family groups to “not resign ourselves to sterile dullness and pessimism.” While acknowledging the challenges facing young people today—including high rents, low wages, and job uncertainty, per the BBC—the pope stressed that family and procreation remain a goal. He even relayed an anecdote in which he expressed irritation at a woman who asked him to bless her “baby,” which turned out to be a dog inside her purse. “I lost my patience and told her off,” Francis said. “There are many children who are hungry, and you bring me a dog?”
It’s not the first time Francis has harped on this issue: He made similar remarks in 2014, and just last year, before a general audience, he took much the same tack. “We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more,” he lamented, per CNN. “And many, many couples do not have children … but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children.” Still, it seems unfair to label the head of the Catholic Church as an animal hater, as he’s been photographed in the past being affectionate with dogs, a lamb, and even a tiger.