Through the sacrament of marriage, Italy can counteract "a true race towards death," said the head of Italian bishops on Sunday. He explained that a family founded on marriage is proof from God "that the future exists."
The Archbishop of Genoa, Italy and president of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, addressed the theme of the family at a Mass he celebrated Sunday on the Solemnity of the Madonna della Guardia. L'Osservatore Romano published and extensive portion of the homily.
During the homily, the cardinal called for greater protection of the family in Italy, because "(n)eglecting the family ... means the crumbling of society itself." Supporting pro-family policies, he asserted, assures a "balanced social body."
Appealing for policies that are "more adherent and effective" to the reality of families in the nation, he said it is "foolish" not to be concerned about the problem and address it.
Italy's official national statistics institute, ISTAT, reported that in 2009 there was an average of 1.41 children per family, while the CIA's "World Factbook" estimated a total fertility rate of just 1.31, putting the country at 206 of 223 countries in their ranking system.
Cardinal Bagnasco argued that there's a need "to recognize that the demographic balance is not only necessary to the physical survival of a community, which without children has no future, but it is also a condition for that alliance between generations that is essential for a normal democratic dialectic."
For this reason, he added, the Church has pointed out repeatedly that the direction of the demographics of the Western world are representative of "serious cultural catastrophe."
The cardinal said that the region of Liguria, where Genoa is located, is among the areas of Italy leading "a true race towards death."
The lack of children means an "autumnal future" in the country, he said, noting that generational imbalances, educational poverty and the inability of society to think about providing for and organizing around children are already being seen. And, he said, "a society without children and young people, just like a society without elderly people, would be seriously mutilated."
But, according to Cardinal Bagnasco, "as long as a man and a woman unite their lives forever in the bond of marriage," there is still hope. "They form, in the womb of humanity, a new reality that should make the entire universe shake with acknowledgement and emotion.
"The family founded on marriage, and especially in the sacrament, is proof that God continues to love the world, that he trusts in man, that the future exists, that love and hope are stronger than evil."
Concluding, he said that while the "yes" to marriage might be intimidating to some, with the "power of Christ" a human and divine force is inserted into the relationship. This is so, explained the cardinal, "because of the true faithfulness, that of love to the point of sacrificing oneself, is something that borders between human and divine."