Pope Francis says we cannot “passively accept” the low birthrate in the West, referred to by economists and scholars of other fields as a “demographic winter.”
In a message to the General States of Natality conference in Italy, he called on institutions to reverse the trend of declining births.
The Pope, who participated in the first edition of the General Assembly in 2021, said he believes that the birth rate represents “a real social emergency.”
Ignoring it is “a short-sighted attitude,” he warned, because “fewer and fewer children are being born, and this means impoverishing everyone’s future; Italy, Europe, and the West are impoverishing their future.”
3 Pregnant women read Pope’s message
The message of the Bishop of Rome was read by three pregnant women. In it he highlights the “tragic poverty” of those who do not succeed in having a child despite their desire to be parents.
Many young people fail to realize their dream of raising a family. And so, they lower the bar of their desire, and content themselves with mediocre substitutes, such as business, the car, travel, jealously guarding their free time … The beauty of a family with many children risks becoming a utopia, a dream that it is difficult to realize.
The head of the Catholic Church invites us to hope against all odds, “in spite of the figures that are inexorably worsening from year to year.”
He called on all levels of society – institutional, media, cultural, economic and social – to “foster, improve and implement concrete policies aimed at revitalizing birth and family,” overcoming “ideological barriers.”
“This is the moment to give real answers to families and young people,” insists the Pope, who encourages them to “start hoping for life again.”
With 1.27 children per woman in 2019, according to INSEE figures, Italy is one of the last countries in Europe in terms of birth rate.
Here is the full text of the Pope’s brief message:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you affectionately, and am sorry I am unable to be with you physically this year. But I will follow your work closely, because the theme of birthrate represents a real social emergency. It is not immediately perceptible, like other issues that occupy the news, but it is very urgent: fewer and fewer children are being born, and this means impoverishing everyone’s future; Italy, Europe, and the West are impoverishing their future.
There is an existential periphery in the West, inconspicuous, that is not immediately noticed. It is that of women and men who wish to have a child, but are unable to do so. Many young people fail to realize their dream of raising a family. And so, they lower the bar of their desire, and content themselves with mediocre substitutes, such as business, the car, travel, jealously guarding their free time … The beauty of a family with many children risks becoming a utopia, a dream that it is difficult to realize.
This is a new poverty that alarms me. It is the generative poverty of those who discount the desire for happiness in their hearts, of those who resign themselves to watering down their greatest aspirations, of those who are content with little and stop hoping on a bigger scale. Yes, it is a tragic poverty, because it affects human beings in their greatest wealth: bringing lives into the world to care for them, passing on to others with love the existence they have received.
Failing to see the problem of the declining birthrate is a short-sighted attitude; it means ceasing to look ahead, further forward. It means turning the other way, thinking that the problems are always too complex and that nothing can be done. It means, in other words, giving up. This is why I like the title of your event, organized by the Fondazione per la Natalità and promoted by the Forum of Families. “It can be done.” It is the title of those who do not resign themselves. It is the title of those who hope against all hope, against numbers that worsen inexorably year by year. It can be done means not passively accepting that things cannot change.
Dear friends, things can change if, without fear, going beyond partisan interests and ideological barriers, we commit together. Therefore, I hope that at all levels – institutional, media, cultural, economic and social – we will foster, improve and implement concrete policies aimed at revitalizing birth and family. I think of you and I like to see how the issue of birthrate is able to unite, not divide. Businesses, banks, associations, unions, sportsmen, actors, writers, politicians, all together to think about how to start hoping for life again.
The data, the forecasts and the numbers are by now known to all: action is needed. It is the moment to give real answers to families and young people: hope cannot and must not die waiting. I ask God to bless your efforts. I am close to you and am rooting for you, so that together we can reverse the course of this cold demographic winter. Thank you. It can be done!