No need to breed 'like rabbits', says Pope

Pope Francis has called for “responsible” parenthood, saying that to be good Catholics people do not need to breed “like rabbits”. Speaking on the flight back to Rome from the Philippines, he was responding to questions from journalists about the size of families and the Church's teaching on birth control.

During his visit to Asia, the Pope met with former street children who had been abandoned by their parents because they could not afford to care for them. He was asked whether he felt the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception meant Catholic parents had more children than they could afford. He replied that he knew of many ways allowed by the Catholic Church that could ensure families only had as many children as they wished.

“Some people think that - excuse my expression here - that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits," he told the journalists on board. “No. Parenthood is about being responsible. This is clear.” Noting that population experts advised three children per family, he also described new life as "part of the sacrament of marriage".

Pope Francis cited the case of one woman he had met who had had seven children by Caesarean section and was expecting her eighth - a pregnancy which Francis described as irresponsible. "She said, 'I trust in God.' But God gave us the means to be responsible," the Pope said.

On Sunday, an estimated six million people attended an outdoor mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the capital, Manila. His visit also included meeting some of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

(Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)