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The “serious” European demographic winter “cannot be ignored”

ROME — Pope Francis warned again of Europe’s “demographic winter” on Friday, caused by a dangerously low birth rate well below replacement levels.

“The family – as we know – is the main antidote to poverty, both material and spiritual, as it is also to the problem of demographic winter or irresponsible motherhood and fatherhood,” the pontiff said. to members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS).

“The demographic winter is serious business,” he stressed. “Here in Italy it’s serious business compared to other countries in Europe. You can’t ignore it, it’s serious business.

Last December, Francis lamented Italy’s plummeting birth rate, following the release of statistics showing the country’s birth rate fell to a record low in 2020, registering just 1.17 births per woman among citizens. Italians.

“I have a concern, a real concern, at least here in Italy: the demographic winter,” the pope said. “It seems that many couples prefer not to have children or to have only one. Think about it. It’s a tragedy.

The pope said he had just watched a program on Italian television exploring the serious fallout to be expected from the implosion of the country’s population.

“Let us do all we can to regain consciousness in order to overcome this demographic winter which is going against our families, our country, and even our future,” he said.

PASS met in plenary session this week for a three-day conference titled: “The Family as a Relational Asset: The Challenge of Love.”

“The family is almost always at the top of the scale of values ​​of different peoples, because it is inscribed in the very nature of women and men,” François told the assembly on Friday.

“Beyond all the differences, there are common and enduring traits that reveal the greatness and value of marriage and family,” he said, while warning that family is sometimes experienced in an individualistic way. and private “as is partly the case in the West.”

The human being is created in the image and likeness of God, who is love, Francis said, and as “mutual love between man and woman” marriage “is the reflection of love absolute and indefectible whose God loves the human being, destined to be fruitful and to be accomplished in the common work of the social order and the care of creation.

The family is also the “place of welcome”, he said, and the place “of the rehabilitation of the sick, of the reception of migrants, and in general of the social inclusion of those who are victims of marginalization”.

The pope called for family-friendly “social, economic and cultural policies,” which include “policies that harmonize family and work; tax policies that recognize family responsibilities and support the educational functions of families by adopting appropriate instruments of tax fairness; policies that welcome life; and social, psychological and health services focused on supporting couples and parenting relationships.

To rediscover the beauty of the family, we must “remove from the mind the ‘cataract’ of ideologies that prevent us from seeing reality”, he said, which involves “rediscovering the correspondence between marriage natural and sacramental marriage”.

The separation between the two “risks abandoning the institution of the family to the tyranny of the artificial”, he added.

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