On Friday, Pope Francis called on politicians to find solutions to stop the decline in the birth rate in Italy, warning of a “demographic winter” and that young people are facing “tremendous efforts” to establish families in a difficult environment.
The 86-year-old pope opened the second day of a conference in Rome of politicians, business and society officials to discuss the sharp decline in the number of births in Italy, a figure that experts warn will impoverish the country.
For the first time last year, the number of births in Italy fell below the 400,000 mark, to 393,000, according to the National Statistics Institute (ISTAT). This number compares to 713,499 deaths out of a population of about 58 million.
Creating a family turns into a titanic effort
Pope Francis, who was greeted with standing ovations when he appeared on the podium to address the conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, added: “Today’s young generations live in a social climate in which having a family turns into a titanic effort, rather than a shared value recognized and supported by all. “.
According to the official Vatican website, he pointed out that the younger generations suffer “more than anyone else from a sense of instability, as the future seems like an impossible mountain to climb. Difficulty finding stable work, difficulty maintaining it, expensive homes, high rents.” Insufficient wages. All these things are real problems.”
And he considered that “there is a need to prepare a fertile ground for a new spring to bloom and to leave behind this demographic winter,” calling for “launching processes that give impetus and life to Italy, Europe and the world.”
The Pontiff added: “To give birth a boost again means to reform the forms of social exclusion that affect young people and their future.”
A world without children
The provocative question used in publicity for the conference, organized by the Birthright Foundation, a group with links to Catholic associations that defend the concept of the family, was, “Have you ever imagined a world without children?”-
Conference speakers steered clear of some of the controversial issues related to Italy’s population decline, such as abortion, the use of incubators and mass immigration.-
Primarily, the speakers focused on solutions including social welfare, childcare promotion and tax relief.
For his part, Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, a key figure in Meloni’s far-right party, indicated Thursday during the congress that the issue of births is of concern “because we want to protect the culture and languages of Italy.”
He denied it had anything to do with “race” after he came under fire from the opposition last month for warning of “ethnic replacement” in Italy by immigrants.
Meloni, who won the highest proportion of the female vote in the September elections but does not consider herself a feminist, has made mothers and families a central part of her discourse.
In her speech Friday, she criticized what she called the “dominant culture” for making the topic of families almost taboo. “We live in an era when talking about the birth rate, motherhood and the family is much more difficult, and sometimes it seems like a revolutionary act,” Meloni said.
And she continued: “We no longer want it to be scandalous to say that we are all born of a man and a woman, and that it is not taboo to say that the birth rate is not for sale, that the womb cannot be rented and that children are not a commodity that can be chosen and then perhaps returned.”
Italy’s population was growing until 2014, when it began to decline. On Thursday, Italian Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti warned that by 2042, a decline in the birth rate in Italy would lead to a decline in GDP by 18%.