4 May 2021

On May 14th, Pope Francis will formally open the States-General on Natality, an online initiative devoted to the future of demography in Italy and in the world. This event will reverberate beyond Italy, especially in Europe, since the issues of the birth rate and other demographic trends impact every country on the Old Continent. FAFCE welcomes this initiative, which was organised by its largest Member Association in Italy, the Forum of Family Associations (Forum delle Associazioni familiari).

FAFCE called on European countries “to improve their family and demographic policies, which must be considered as social and economic investments in the future of Europe” in its Board Resolution of 9 October, 2019 (link here). The States-General on Natality is a concrete step toward a Europe built around the irreplicable role of the family.

The President of the Forum of Family Associations, Mr. Gigi de Palo, convened the Stati Generali so that businesses, public institutions, media organisations, sports organisations, and other stakeholders in Italy’s future may work together to address the negative natural population growth rate. This phenomenon, also known as demographic winter, requires a holistic, integral approach. Such an approach dovetails with the themes developed in Pope Francis’s encyclicals Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti, which call for sustainable development and fraternal solidarity within and between communities, respectively. Families are key both to ensuring sustainable development and to modeling solidarity since they inculcate values in children and create a nurturing environment for all their members.

The purpose of Stati Generali della Natalità is to “outline a new narrative of natality” at a time when Europe desperately needs such a narrative. After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with all the death and economic depression it has wrought, Europeans are losing confidence in their communities, their governments, and their futures. Such a crisis of confidence means that couples delay having children, as they doubt whether their children will grow up in safe and prosperous communities. In Italy, 2019 saw just 420.084 births, which represents a decline of 156.000 since 2008.

Nonetheless, the organisers of the Stati Generali see an opportunity to launch a reset of people’s attitudes toward family life and child-rearing. Pope Francis’s presence at the initiative’s opening signals his agreement. It is essential that this initiative succeeds—now, as in all of history, the family must set the tone for its community, country, and, to the “larger human family” (Fratelli Tutti, 141). Earlier this year, Pope Francis warned that “In Italy, [the number of] births have declined, and the future is in danger”. He called on all people “to take this concern and try to ensure that this demographic winter might come to an end, and a new springtime of baby boys and girls might flourish.”

As recently underlined by FAFCE’s President, Vincenzo Bassi,  “demographic policies must be regarded as an investment because without children, without future workers, we cannot maintain the generational balance which is essential for the future, the economic future of Europe, of my country, and of the whole world. We need the generative power of the family not only within the family but also outside”.