Jan 21, 2015 5:35 AM

Pope praises big families after 'like rabbits' remark

The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope Francis praised big families on Wednesday as a gift from God, after his comments that Catholics don't have to breed "like rabbits" made headlines this week.

Francis said numerous children don't cause poverty in the developing world, as some have suggested, and that the real cause of poverty is an unjust economic system that idolizes money over people.

Francis reviewed his recent trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines during his weekly general audience. During the trip, Francis strongly defended the Vatican ban on artificial contraception. But he also restated the church's position that Catholics needn't breed "like rabbits" and should practice "responsible parenthood" through church-approved birth control methods.

On Wednesday, he gave a nod to big families, who may have felt somewhat insulted by his comments aboard the plane returning to Rome. Just weeks ago, Francis met with an association of large Catholic families to show his support.

He said that while in the Philippines, it gave him great "consolation and hope to see so many large families who welcome children as a true gift of God. They know that every child is a blessing."

He said claims that big families cause poverty are "simplistic."

"Let us all say, that the principal causes of poverty is an economic system that has taken the person from the center and put the god of money in its place," he said to applause from the crowd.

During the trip, Francis gave his strongest defense yet of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which enshrined the church's opposition to artificial birth control. Pope Paul VI penned the document at a time when the church was coming under pressure to change its position on sexuality in light of warnings that population growth was going to outpace the planet's ability to provide food for future generations.

Francis called Paul "prophetic" for resisting the warnings.


Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield


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