Pope Francis on Wednesday criticized people who choose to have pets instead of children as selfish.

Speaking to a general audience about St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, Pope Francis said that Joseph’s decision to raise Jesus is “among the highest forms of love” while stating those who adopt pets instead of children contribute to a loss of “humanity.”

“We see that people do not want to have children, or just one and no more. And many, many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one — but they have two dogs, two cats … Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children,” the pope said. “Yes, it’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality. And this denial of fatherhood or motherhood diminishes us, it takes away our humanity. And in this way civilization becomes aged and without humanity, because it loses the richness of fatherhood and motherhood. And our homeland suffers, as it does not have children.”

Pope Francis went on to say that people become parents by taking up responsibility for their children.

“Fathers are not born, but made,” he said. “A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.”

He added that couples who have children biologically should consider adoption.

“How many children in the world are waiting for someone to take care of them,” he said. “Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption. But it is riskier to not have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual.”

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