.- Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., the director general of Vatican Radio, welcomed the birth of the seven billionth person in his weekly editorial.
“Dear baby number seven billion,” said the Italian priest Nov. 5, “we pray that you can understand that your life will find its fullest meaning not in this world but in the next. Because this is what you were born for. Your Creator and Father made you for this.”
Fr. Lombardi delivered his thoughts only days after a major United Nations report estimated that world’s population reached the seven billion mark on Oct. 31. The report, “State of World Population 2011,” also estimated that the earth’s total population could number more than 10 billion by the end of this century.
Fr. Lombardi speculated about the circumstances and geography of this week’s seven billionth birth.
“I don’t know if you were born on a remote island, or in a refugee tent. I don’t know whether you are healthy or sick or handicapped. I don’t know whether both your parents were there to embrace you at your birth, or whether your mother alone was there to hold you.”
Though some commentators have criticized population growth, the U.N. report casts some positive light on the phenomenon.
“There is much to celebrate in world population trends over the last 60 years,” it comments, adding “our record population size can be viewed in many ways as a success for humanity.”
The report particularly welcomes the rise in average life expectancy, which “leapt from about 48 years in the early 1950s to about 68 in the first decade of the new century.” It also cited decline in infant deaths which have “plunged” from about 133 in 1,000 births in the 1950s to 46 per 1,000 in the period from 2005 to 2010. It also praises the work of immunization campaigns that have reduced the prevalence of childhood diseases worldwide.
In his words to “baby number seven billion,” Fr. Lombardi dismissed concerns about overpopulation.
“I don’t know whether people will say there are too many or too few of you and your contemporaries. Today, I don’t care about that.”
Fr. Lombardi told the landmark baby that the world he or she is coming into “is a bit complicated and it’s not friendly for everyone.”
“We haven’t done a very good job preparing it for you,” he admitted.
He noted that the G20 Summit of the world’s wealthiest nations had just concluded its two-day meeting in the French city of Cannes.
“The leaders of the richest and most powerful nations are sitting around a table, struggling to find a way forward. We too are asking ourselves about your future.”
His overall message to the baby, however, was a personalized and emotional one. He told the baby that he or she is “unique and special, that you are a wonderful gift, that you are a miracle, that your spirit will live forever, and so you are welcome.”
“We hope that when you smile someone will respond to your smile, and when you cry someone will caress you. We hope you can go to school and that you won’t go hungry. We hope that someone will answer your questions wisely and encourage you as you find your place in the world.”