Brussels, 13th March 2024

Today we celebrate the 11th anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. The first Jesuit Pope and the first from the Americas, his pontificate has been historic in form as well as substance ever since the crowds saw the white smoke from St Peter’s Square.

Our last key meeting with the Pope was held in June 2022 on the occasion of FAFCE’s 25th anniversary. He encouraged our work both at the level of the European institutions and in serving family networks across the continent. He reflected on our previous meeting with him in 2017, where he said, “families are thus a kind of leaven that helps to make the world more humane and more fraternal, where no one feels rejected or abandoned.”

FAFCE has long been inspired and encouraged by the Pope’s declarations and priorities. We reflect often on the three transitions that the Pope identifies: ecological, digital, and demographic. We also refer frequently to the Holy Father’s critique of the culture of death and waste, emphasising the family as, not a cost, but rather an investment to guarantee the future of our societies.


The Pope began the year with a bold declaration on surrogacy, calling for its universal abolition. Of course, the first time he spoke about ‘wombs for rent’ in this way was at the June 2022 meeting with us, saying that human dignity is threatened “by the inhumane and increasingly widespread practice of ‘wombs for rent’, in which women, almost always poor, are exploited, and children are treated as commodities.”

Indeed, our board resolution on surrogacy dates back to 2016, and still today we are campaigning for the abolition of wombs for rent. In April, FAFCE will return to Rome for a conference on surrogacy abolition, as members of the Casablanca Declaration in 2023.

Demographic winter 

In 2022, the Pope reiterated the need to focus on the demographic crisis, saying: “This demographic winter is very serious. Please, be attentive to it! There is a very close link between this regenerative poverty and the loss of a sense of the beauty of the family”.

This is another key issue for FAFCE, as we have outlined in resolutions from last year on loneliness, in Autumn 2021 in relation to sustainable and integral development, in Spring 2021 on the democratic future of Europe, Autumn 2020 with regards to the post-pandemic recovery, and our Spring 2018 resolution specifically focused on the demographic winter in Europe.

Digital safety

The Pope also raised our work on the protection of minors online at the 2022 meeting, and declared that “it is a matter not only of protecting children – an urgent task of the authorities and of all of us – but also of declaring po***graphy as a threat to public health”.

We continue to work on ensuring that digital safety and the protection of minors are a key priority at the European level. We keep reiterating our three essential demands: (i) an EU ban on po***graphy and (ii) the fight against the oversexualisation of children; (iii) further analyse the links between po***graphy consumption and child sexual abuse.

Thank you, Pope Francis 

On these and many more campaigns, we refer to the Pope’s words so often for wisdom. As the Holy Father asks, we pray for him today and give thanks for his example and service on this pontifical anniversary.

The Pope’s example has inspired millions over the past 11 years. From the dark and isolated nights of prayer during the pandemic, to the joyful summit of World Youth Day, the Pope has walked with Catholics through lamentation and celebration.

Today, we celebrate 11 years since this Pontiff’s election, recalling the Pope’s emphasis on solidarity, reconciliation, and fraternity – messages that help energise us in our promotion of the family and human dignity.

At the 2022 meeting, FAFCE President Vincenzo Bassi, said: “Thank you Holy Father. Thank you also for your attention to this tired Europe of ours that no longer has children and that needs, especially in a time of war like this, an urgent injection of maternal spirit, because no mother gives birth to a child to send him to war!

Also for this reason, thank you, Holy Father, precisely for having placed the family at the centre of your Petrine ministry, from the very beginning. In doing so, you put the person at the centre, in the ordinary life in which all of us Christians are called to live our vocation. Please rest assured of our support and our prayers. Thank you again.”