Pope Francis to speak at event on Italy’s record-low birth rate

Pope Francis birth rate Pope Francis shared a stage with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on May 12, 2023, to speak at a two-day conference on “The General State of the Birth Rate,” held at Conciliazione Auditorium close to the Vatican. | Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis will speak at an event on Italy’s demographic crisis as the country’s birth rate sits at a historic low.

Pope Francis will address “The General State of the Birth Rate” conference on May 10 at the Conciliazione Auditorium close to the Vatican.

The two-day event organized by the Forum of Family Associations and the Foundation for Births seeks to address the 50 years of steady decline in births across Europe, and especially in Italy, and what can be done to reverse it. 

Births in Italy dropped to a historic low in 2023. Italy’s national statistics bureau recorded 379,000 births last year, a 3.6% decline from 2022 and a 34.2% drop from 2008.

Italy’s overall population has been falling since 2014 with 282,000 more deaths than births in Italy in 2023. The country has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe: 1.2 births per woman.

Pope Francis has described the low number of births as “a figure that reveals a great concern for tomorrow.” He lamented last year the “social climate in which starting a family has turned into a titanic effort, instead of being a shared value that everyone recognizes and supports.”

“The General State of the Birth Rate” will feature Italian government ministers, business leaders, and media personalities who will give talks on the family, including Eugenia Roccella, Italy’s family minister.

It will be the third time that Pope Francis has participated in the conference, which is supported by the Italian Ministry for Family, Birth, and Equal Opportunity. 

Last year, Pope Francis shared the stage with Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“The birth of children, in fact, is the main indicator for measuring the hope of a people,” Pope Francis said at the conference in 2023.

“If few are born it means there is little hope. And this not only has repercussions from an economic and social point of view but also undermines confidence in the future.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported last week that the U.S. birth rate also hit a record low in 2023 and that the total number of births was the lowest it’s been in decades. 

According to the report, slightly fewer than 3.6 million babies were born in 2023, or 54.4 births per 1,000 women aged 15 through 44. This was a 2% decline in total births and a 3% decline in births per 1,000 women when compared with the previous year.

“The birth rate challenge is a matter of hope,” Pope Francis said.

Hope, the pope said, “is not an illusion or an emotion that you feel, no; it is a concrete virtue, a life attitude. And it has to do with concrete choices. Hope is nourished by each person’s commitment to the good, it grows when we feel we are participating and involved in making meaning of our own and others’ lives.”

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