Pope Francis has said that making the choice to not have children is "selfish." The pontiff made the comments at a gathering at St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, and said that societies that have low birth rates are "depressed."
"If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong! As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI teaches, but having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice," Francis told the audience, according to Vatican Radio.
"The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished! Children learn to take charge of their family, they mature in the sharing of sacrifices, and they grow in appreciation of its gifts."
In January, Francis suggested that having too many children that cannot be taken care of, on the other hand, is irresponsible, though clarified that he upholds the Catholic ban on contraceptives.
"Some people think — excuse me for saying this — that to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits," Francis said following his first ever trip to the Philippines as pope.
He recalled the example of a woman who became pregnant for an eighth time after she had given birth to her previous seven children via cesarean section, and called such a scenario "tempting God."
Francis has praised big families in other speeches, however, and in his latest address to the Vatican audience said that societies in Europe with low birth rates are "depressed."
"The virtuous link between generations is a guarantee of the future, and it is a guarantee of a very human story. A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor, when you do not honor your parents you lose your honor! It is a society destined to fill itself with arid and greedy young," the pope said.
"However, even 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," he continued.
"Just think of the many societies we know here in Europe. They are depressed societies because they don't want children, they don't have children. The birth rate doesn't even reach 1 percent, why? Everyone should think about that and answer it personally."
Francis stressed that children are a benefit to families, to society and to the Church, and gave his blessing both to the parents in the audience and their children.