Italy's Biggest Problem: Too Few Babies

Cardinal Ruini Evaluates Demographic Crisis

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ROME, NOV. 22, 2002 ( Italy’s greatest crisis is its lack of births, warns the president of the Italian bishops’ conference.

At the close of the Italian episcopate’s plenary assembly, Cardinal Camillo Ruini said the demographic crisis is starting to concern even those who, until recently, did not attach much importance to it.

Elements of the press are also “realizing increasingly that if there is not a change of tendency, in a short time the country’s decline will be due to the decrease of births,” the cardinal said Thursday.

The average number of children per woman in Italy in 2001 was 1.25; in 1970, it was 2.43, according to the Italian Institute of Statistics. In 1970, there were 901,472 births in the country; by 2001, this figure plunged to 544,550.

This demographic crisis “is not just a problem in Italy, but also in Europe,” the cardinal said.

The bishops know that they must transmit “an attitude of confidence” in the culture and society and to find “concrete ways of development that put the human person at the center,” Cardinal Ruini said.

“If we seek security on earth, we are seeking the impossible,” he said as the bishops’ meeting closed in Collevalenza.

“Man must accept to live life on earth with insecurity, as it is always subjected to material conditions,” which “can be enlightened by science and technology, but within certain limits,” the cardinal said.

According to Cardinal Ruini, to “seek security in this world” is something that springs from human nature, “but when it becomes a dominant element it is transformed into a radical factor of decline of a civilization,” which “closes in on itself.”

“Fundamental confidence in life can have many motivations, also among nonbelievers,” he added. “But, of course, it should be the attitude of believers, who believe in a God who holds the universe in his hands” and enables man “to accept the risk of life.”

John Paul II referred to the country’s demographic crisis during his historic visit to Parliament last week.

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