Pope Francis has criticised couples who choose not to have children.
The 85-year-old celibate told scores of the faithful at a general audience in the Vatican audience hall on Wednesday.
“Too many couples don’t have children because they don’t want any, or they have only one because they don’t want any more.
“But they have two dogs, two cats. Dogs and cats take the place of children.
“Yes, I understand, it makes you laugh, but that is the reality,’’ the leader of the Catholic Church continued.
“Civilisation is ageing and lacking humanity because the richness of parenthood is being lost,’’ he stressed.
According to the pope, those who live in the world and marry must think of having children,’’ the pontiff stressed.
Having children naturally or through adoption is a risk, but not having them is even riskier, he said.
Last week the Pope said that Italy was facing a “demographic winter” when the country’s birth-rate figures had fallen again as they were published.