Pope Tells Italians They Need to Have More Kids, Fewer Pets
The Pope recalled how a woman recently asked him to bless her "child," but showed him a dog instead.
Alarmed by Italy's declining birth rate, Pope Francis said Friday the decrease is indicative of a lack of hope for the future, remarking that in some households, pets are replacing children.
In illustrating his point, he recalled how, a few weeks ago, in St. Peter's Square, a woman approached him asking him to bless her "child."
Then, the woman opened a bag to reveal a small dog, the Pope said.
"I lost my patience and told her off: there are many children who are hungry, and you bring me a dog?" he quipped.
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The comments came as the leader of the Catholic church addressed a conference on the issue of Italy's low birth rate in Rome.
Births in Italy fell below 400,000 in 2022, setting a new low and continuing the nation's standing as home of one of the lowest fertility rate in the EU, according to the BBC.
Part of the problem, the Pope acknowledged, is that younger generations are facing numerous challenges. The possibility of starting a family is transforming into a "titanic effort" — one becoming increasingly exclusive to the rich.
"Difficulty in finding a stable job, sky-high rents and insufficient wages are real problems," he said.
According to the BBC, Italy is on track to lose nearly a fifth of its residents by 2050. Many are also growing old. Over the past two decades, the total of centenarians has tripled in the country.
"Fixing the problem is an absolute priority," Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who spoke alongside the Pope, said Friday. "We want Italy to go back to having a bright future."
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