Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies, Pope tells audience in St Peter’s Square
Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Grosseto
Thursday 12 February 2015 07.44 AEST
The statement, which he made in his general audience in St Peter’s Square, will be seen as especially controversial in Italy, which has recorded a steady drop in its birth rate for decades.
“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said.
“The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
The address was focused primarily on the joy of children and their role in society. The pope recalled a childhood memory, when his mother was asked which of her five children was her favourite.
“She would say ‘I have five children like I have five fingers. If they beat one of my fingers all five hurt. All of my children are mine, but each one is different’,” he said.
“You love your child because he is a child, not because he is beautiful, healthy, and good; not because he thinks like me, or embodies my desires. A child is a child: a life created by us but destined for him.”
He said there was a strong correlation between a society’s level of hope and its “inter-generational harmony”.
The remarks echoed earlier comments by the pope on the topic of childlessness. Last year, he warned against the lure of a “culture of wellbeing” that can come when a couple does not have children and has the money and freedom to take nice holidays and buy a second home in the countryside.
“It might be better, more comfortable, to have a dog, two cats, and the love goes to the two cats and the dog,” he said. “Is this true or is this not? Have you seen it? Then, in the end, this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.”
“The joy of children makes their parents hearts throb and reopens the future,” he said. “Children are not a problem of reproductive biology, or one of many ways to realize oneself in life. Let alone their parent’s possession. Children are a gift. Do you understand? Children are a gift,” he added.
Last week, the pontiff said that hitting a child was an acceptable form of discipline, although it was important to maintain their “dignity” in the process.
The Vatican later clarified the remark, saying the pope did not endorse violence or cruelty against a child.