Pope recommends policy changes to tackle low births

Changes are needed to tackle the rapid decline in births, according to Pope Francis. All across Europe, including Ireland, fertility rates are well below the replacement level of 2.1.

Speaking at a conference in Rome organised by the Italian government to discuss the country’s declining birth rate, the Pope recommended two solutions to the crisis, one institutional and the other social.

“At the institutional level,” he said, “there is an urgent need for effective policies, courageous, concrete and long-term choices, to sow today so that children can reap tomorrow. A greater commitment is needed from all governments, so that the younger generations are put in a position to realise their legitimate dreams.”

It is also important, the Pope added, to promote “a culture of generosity and intergenerational solidarity”.

This would involve, he said, “reconsidering habits and lifestyles” and “renouncing what is superfluous”, in order to “give the youngest hope for tomorrow.”

Towards the end of his speech, the Pope laid his prepared remarks to one side and spoke off-the-cuff on the subject of society’s treatment of the elderly.

“Lonely grandparents, discarded grandparents: this is cultural suicide”, he said.

“Have children, lots of them,” Pope Francis concluded, “but also look after your grandparents.”