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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Pope Francis says good Catholics need not breed like rabbits

Back to Rome Monday from his weeklong visit to Asia

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ROME, Italy - Pope Francis has said that that good Catholics have to be responsible parents and need not breed "like rabbits" even as the church's ban on artificial means of birth control stands intact.

The pope made the remarks onboard the papal plane as he flew back to Rome Monday from his weeklong visit to Asia.

He said the church promotes "responsible parenthood and natural methods of birth control".

The pope recalled that he once saw a mother of seven children pregnant with her eighth. He asked her if she wanted to "leave behind seven young orphans".

"She said, 'I trust in God.' But God gave us the means to be responsible," the pope said.

"Some think, and excuse the term, that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits."

The 77-year-old pontiff said giving birth to a new life was "part of the sacrament of marriage" and strongly defended, as he did in Manila, his predecessor Paul VI's outlawing of artificial contraception for Catholics in 1968.

Following the church's teachings, he said, did not mean "Christians should have children one after the other".

"Paul VI was worried by the growth of neo-Malthusianism," the pontiff said, referring to a school of thought that advocates for population control programmes to ensure resources for current and future populations.

"The key teaching of the Church is responsible parenthood. And how do we get that? By dialogue. There are marriage groups in the Church, experts and pastors," he added.

He objected to what he called "ideological colonization" of the family and developing world.

It's wrong to impose progressive, Western notions about birth control and gay rights, especially as a precondition of development aid, he said.

The pope also reiterated his recent remarks about freedom of expression following the deadly Jan 7 attacks on French weekly Charlie Hebdo that carried caricatured religious figures including the Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

He explained that some provocative expressions "risk receiving a reaction that isn't correct".

"Freedom of expression must take into consideration human reality and, therefore, I say it must be prudent," he said.

He also explained why he didn't meet the Dali Lama while he was in Rome for a December Nobel Peace Prize summit. He said the meeting couldn't happen because of usual protocol and not because he didn't want to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.

"Some newspapers said that I did not meet with him out of fear of China. This is not true," Francis said. "We are in contact."

"The usual protocol of the secretary of state is not to receive heads of state and high ranking personalities when they are in Rome for an international meeting."

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