You can't love your dog more than people truly in need, Pope Francis tells audience as he explains concept of piety

Pope Francis arrives to lead the Jubilee audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on May 14, 2016.Reuters

How is it that some people seem to love animals more than they do people who are in need?

Pope Francis noted this wrong sense of piety among some people today in off-the-cuff remarks he made to an audience in St. Peter's Square hearing his catechesis for the Jubilee of Mercy on Saturday, according to CNA/EWTN News.

"How often do we see people greatly attached to cats, to dogs," but fail to "help their neighbor who is in need... This will not do," the Pope said.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church said piety should show God's mercy through compassion for the suffering and afflicted.

He explained that piety should not "be confused with compassion which we feel for the animals who live with us."

"It happens, in fact, that at times one feels this sentiment toward animals, and remains indifferent to the suffering of one's brothers and sisters," the Pope noted.

Piety, he said, is an aspect of mercy, and one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It denotes a sense of "religiosity or devotion" and also relates to compassion and mercy.

Pope Francis cited instances in the Gospel in which persons who were sick, possessed, in poverty, or otherwise afflicted would call on Jesus to "have mercy."

"Jesus responded to everyone with his gaze of mercy and the comfort of his presence," he said.

Jesus took pity and urged the suffering people who approached Him "to have faith in him and in his Word."

The Pope said Jesus "shares the sadness of those he encounters," while at the same time works in them to "transform them in joy."

"We too are called to cultivate" attitudes of compassion when confronted with situations which shake us from "the indifference that prevents us from recognising the needs of our brothers and sisters," and free us from the "slavery of material goods," the Pope said.

He then invoked the example of the Virgin Mary, who "cares for each of her children and for us believers," and who is "the icon of piety."