Vatican City, May 12, 2022 / 05:35 am (CNA).
Pope Francis decried the low birth rate in Western countries on Thursday, describing it as an urgent social emergency and a “new poverty.”
“It is not immediately perceptible, like other problems 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 futures,” Pope Francis said in a message to a May 12 event on the birth rate in Italy.
“Sorry that I cannot be among you physically this year,” he said. “But I will follow your work closely, because the issue of birth rate represents a real social emergency.”
“The General State of the Birth Rate” brought together political, business, and organization leaders to reflect on Italy’s demographic crisis, caused by one of the lowest birth rates in Europe: 1.24 births per woman.
“The data, the forecasts, the numbers are now known to all: we need concreteness,” Pope Francis said in his message.
“It is time to give real answers to families and young people: hope cannot and must not die of waiting.”
Francis said there was an invisible “existential periphery” in the West, consisting of the men and women who want to have children but are unable to achieve it.
Struggling to realize their dream of children, some people settle for “mediocre substitutes,” he added, such as work, cars, travel, and leisure time.
“The beauty of a family full of children is in danger of becoming a utopia, a dream difficult to realize,” he said.
“This is a new poverty that scares me,” the pope commented. “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 settle for little and stop hoping big.”
“Yes,” he continued, “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 the received existence with love.”