Germany has rejected the pope's comments that it's OK to spank your children to discipline them, as long as their dignity is maintained.

In his general audience this week, Pope Francis had praised a father who admitted smacking his child "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them."

Francis described the man's comment as "beautiful," adding: "He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on."

Verena Herb, a spokeswoman for Germany's Families Ministry, told reporters on Friday that "there can be no dignified hitting."

Herb added that "there must be no misunderstanding here, because any form of violence against children is completely unacceptable."

Germany is one of several countries where corporal punishment of children is illegal.