Good Roman Catholics do not need to breed like “rabbits”, Pope Francis said, but should practice “responsible” parenting instead.
Pope Francis spoke as he returned from the Philippines, where he met former street children abandoned by parents unable to afford to care for them.
Standing firm against artificial birth control, he said new life was “part of the sacrament of marriage”.
Francis said there are plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. He also said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called “ideological colonization” of the developing world.
The Argentine pope has brought a series of fresh perspectives to the notoriously rigid Church since he took over, signalling a strong reformist drive.
He stressed at the time that the Church’s official position had not changed, but said that it should "always keep in mind the individual”.
The Pope has become known for his humility and concern for the poor, and has reached out to non-believers and those in other religions. He regularly picks up the phone to call ordinary people who write to him.
His latest comments are not the first this month to attract attention for their candour.
Last week when discussing the deadly attack by Islamist gunmen angered by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, the Pope said: “If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched.”