Pontiff expresses concern that younger generation must bear heavy burden of caring for elders
Pope Francis alluded to China’s relaxation of its infamous one-child-per-family policy, calling a society’s dearth of children “very painful.”
In his first interview about China, Pope Francis sent greetings to the Chinese people for the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 8.
He said the world should not fear China as its influence rises around the world. “When a people moves forward, this does not worry me because it means they are making history,” the pope said. “And I believe that the Chinese people are moving forward and this is their greatness.
The pontiff also alluded to last year’s change in Beijing’s three-decades-old attempt to slow population growth in the country, a policy that often is reported to be enforced in harsh terms, with women given abortions or sterilizations against their will if they have an “unauthorized” second child.
China last October announced it would begin allowing most families to have two children.
“The problem for China of not having children must be very painful, because the pyramid is then inverted and a child has to bear the burden of his father, mother, grandfather and grandmother,” Pope Francis told Asia Times columnist and China Renmin University senior researcher Francesco Sisci. “And this is exhausting, demanding, disorientating. It is not the natural way. I understand that China has opened up possibilities on this front.”
In a one-hour interview recorded on Jan. 28 at the Vatican, Pope Francis referred to aging of populations due to low birthrates in many places around the world, especially in Europe. Referring to his trip to Africa last November, he said, “It was a pleasure to see children in the streets” while in Rome. “If you walk around, you will see very few children.
“There are other societies that have opted for the contrary. For example, during my trip to Albania, I was astonished to discover that the average age of the population is approximately 40 years,” he continued. “There exist young countries; I think Bosnia and Herzegovina are the same. Countries that have suffered and opt for youth.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the pope spoke of his admiration for China.
“China has always been a reference point of greatness,” he said. “But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom. For me, as a boy, whenever I read anything about China, it had the capacity to inspire my admiration. … Later I looked into Matteo Ricci’s life, and I saw how this man felt the same thing in the exact way I did, admiration, and how he was able to enter into dialogue with this great culture, with this age-old wisdom. He was able to ‘encounter’ it.”