Give joyful witness and lobby hard for families

Amidst Italy’s falling birthrate, groups helping Italian families must give joyful witness and lobby hard for family life, Pope Francis says.

“We are living in a serious demographic winter, and we must react to it with all our force, with our work, with our ideas,” he said as he welcomed Italian Forum of Family Associations members to the Vatican last week.

Francis was referencing the Italian government’s statistics office April report, which said Italy’s birthrate had hit an all-time low.

It reported seven births for every 12 deaths and migration not making up for the population loss. It said “2006 was the last time in which there was a substantial balance between births and deaths”.

Continuing his welcome, Francis said: “My secretary told me the other day that, walking through St. Peter’s Square, he saw a woman with a stroller, and he wanted to see the baby, but there was a puppy inside.

“It’s a symbol. That’s why I’m telling you. We need children.”

Catholic family associations’ first task is to witness to the “joy of being a family,” Francis said.

That doesn’t mean pretending everything is always wonderful, he clarified.

“But there is a joy that passes through all those situations, because it is on a deeper level and comes precisely from being a family and, with a deep sense of gratitude, perceiving that as a gift” from God and from one’s parents and grandparents and children and grandchildren.

“I repeat, I am not talking about an ‘ideal’ family, a standard model to apply in order to be happy.

“Every family has its journey and its story, just like every person does.”

In lobbying for family-friendly services and government policies, the associations should not “start from a particular ideology, but on the basis of the doctrine and the social practice of the Church,” he said.

The method must be one of dialogue, not working for partisan interests, but for the common good.

Open to life and the needs of the society around them, the families should make “a political commitment in the widest and highest sense as a contribution to the common good of the country, so that families are not exploited and then penalized, but promoted and supported,” he said.

It is time “to pass from words to facts and from palliative measures to a real and effective therapy.”

The forum should not follow the debates simply to criticise one party or another, but to offer their experience and constructive suggestions.


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