Pope Francis: what did the Catholic leader say about pets and children and why are his comments controversial?

The Pope’s recent comments have proved controversial, with people taking to social media to react to his views

Pope Francis has recently caused controversy over his comments about people having pets instead of children.

But what did he say and why has it proved controversial?

Here’s what you need to know.

What did Pope Francis say about pets and children?

Pope Francis has suggested that couples who prefer pets to children are selfish and that substituting pets for children “takes away our humanity”.

During a general audience at the Vatican, he said: “Today … we see a form of selfishness. We see that some people do not want to have a child. Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”

He said pet keeping was “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”, with the consequence being that “civilisation grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers”.

The Pope said that couples unable to have children for biological reasons could consider adoption and urged potential parents “not to be afraid” of embarking on parenthood.

He said: “Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child.”

How have people reacted to the Pope’s comments?

The Pope’s comments have proved controversial, with people taking to social media to react to his views.

One Twitter user said: “Pope Francis is a good guy, but that doesn’t mean he gets everything right. He’s wrong about this. It is your choice & with the climate crisis & state of the world, it could be argued that it’s selfish to have kids. I’m not saying that, but there are different ways to view this.”

Another commented: “The irony being that Pope Francis shares his name with the patron saint of animals.”

“Well dogs and cats and foxes and bears and hares and all 4-legged folk need our attention in this dark world too,” said another on Twitter.

One Twitter user also said: “There are many reasons people do not have children and it’s absolutely nobody’s business,” while another commented: “Selfish is bringing life into this world well knowingly that your heart, and mind is not at that place.”