At his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis continued his teachings on Saint Joseph and his role as the father of Jesus.

In off the cuff remarks, Pope Francis also lamented the “demographic winter” parts of the world are facing, saying society today is “something of an orphan” and willing families should “take the risk of welcoming children.”

“Having a child is always a risk, either naturally or by adoption. But it is riskier not to have them. It is riskier to deny fatherhood, or to deny motherhood, be it real or spiritual, to deny it. A man or woman who do not develop the sense of fatherhood or motherhood, they are lacking something, something fundamental, something important.”

He also lamented that many couples today would rather have pets than children, saying “it’s funny” but also “takes away humanity.”

“Many couples do not have children because they do not want to, or they have just one. But they have two dogs, and cats. Yes, dogs and cats take the place of children. It’s funny, I understand, but it is the reality. This denial of motherhood or fatherhood 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.”

He ended his address asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph to open minds to the thought of having children.

“I ask St. Joseph for the grace to awaken consciences and think about this: about having children. Fatherhood and motherhood are the fullness of a person’s life. Think about this. May Saint Joseph exercise his protection over and give his help to orphans, and may he intercede for couples who wish to have a child.”

He concluded with a prayer to Saint Joseph:

Saint Joseph,
you who loved Jesus with fatherly love,
be close to the many children who have no family
and who wish for a father and a mother.
Support the couples who are unable to have children,
Help them to discover, through this suffering, a greater plan.
Make sure that no one lacks a home, a bond,
a person to take care of him or her;
and heal the selfishness of those who close themselves off from life,
that they may open their hearts to love. Amen. 

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