Deciding not to have children is a "selfish choice," Pope Francis told an audience in St. Peter's Square yesterday, presumably referring to childless couples instead of people who take vows of celibacy. The pontiff—who said last month that Catholics shouldn't breed "like rabbits"—changed tack in yesterday's speech, saying that big families are not "an irresponsible choice" USA Today reports. "Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!" he said, recalling how his mother compared her five children to her five fingers—all of them different, but essential parts of a unit.
The remarks will be controversial in Italy, which has one of the world's lowest birth rates, the Guardian reports. "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," Francis said, praising children as "the joy of family and society" and the key to "intergenerational harmony." In similar remarks last year, the pontiff warned that couples who choose pets instead of children are doomed to "old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness."