In a homily on Monday, the single and childless Pope encouraged married couples to not limit their love to their personal pets but to extend to having their own children.
Francis challenged married couples on Monday to resist a "culture of wellbeing" which he suggested had "convinced us it's better not to have children."
The Pope, who is 77 and single and childless, suggested that too many married couples had bought into a "the culture of wellbeing" which tells adherents to "see the world, go on holidays; you can have a house in the country and be carefree."
Maybe that lifestyle was one that was "better, more convenient, to have a little dog, two cats; and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog," conceded Francis but, "eventually this marriage gets to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness. It is not fertile; it does not do what Jesus does with his church: he makes it fertile."
Fifteen married couples ranging from 25-60 years of age joined Pope Francis during his remarks in a chapel at the residence where he lives inside the Vatican.
He encouraged the couples to work through struggles and difficulties in their relationships.
"Married life must be perseverant … because otherwise love cannot go forward," he said. "Perseverance in love, in good times and in bad times, when there are problems: problems with the children, economic problems, problems here, problems there – but love perseveres, presses on, always trying to work things out, to save the family."
Pope Francis recently announced that he will meet with victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic Church clergy for the first time in his papacy later this month. His decision was not universally applauded; a support group for victims, dismissed what it called a "public relations" gesture, arguing that it didn't address the real problems.
The Vatican leader said at an inflight news conference as he was returning to Rome from the Holy Land that priests abusing children is "such an ugly crime" and a "very grave problem," Catholic News Service reported.
"We must move ahead, ahead, zero tolerance," he stated, revealing that he would meet six to eight sex abuse victims from various countries, including Germany, the U.K. and Ireland.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests dismissed the gesture, however, arguing that no real good will come out of it, and urged the Vatican to do more to hand over guilty clergy to secular authorities.
"No child rape will be prevented, no abuse cover up will be prevented and no predator priest will be exposed by anything the pope said today or will do next month. His upcoming and self-serving meeting with victims is more of what we've seen for decades – more gestures, promises, symbolism and public relations," Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP, said in a statement Monday.