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German Rabbit Breeders Miffed by Pope's Reproduction Remarks

FILE - Breeder Kurt Haid checks on some white German Giant rabbits at a show in Bremen, Germany, Dec. 11, 2007.

German rabbit breeders have expressed dismay over Pope Francis' recent comment that Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits.”

On his flight back to Rome Monday from his trip to the Philippines, Francis reminded his followers that they should practice "responsible parenthood and natural methods of birth control."

The pope elaborated by saying that new life was "part of the sacrament of marriage." While in Manila, the pontiff had strongly defended the church’s stance on outlawing artificial contraception for Catholics.

Speaking Tuesday with Deutsche Presse Agentur, Erwin Leowsky, president of the central council of the Association of German Rabbit Breeders, took issue with pope’s analogy, saying that only rabbits that live in the wild are sexually overactive. He said those in captivity have tamer reproductive habits.

Leowsky also said he thought Francis should skip the misleading cliches about rabbits and allow Catholics to use contraceptives.

The pope said he had tentative plans to travel this year to Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, the Central African Republic and Uganda. Vatican officials also have said he will visit the U.S. cities of Philadelphia, New York and Washington in September.