Monday, September 14, 2015

Pope Suggests Europe Must Boost Birthrate

Pope Francis has recently granted two interviews: one to the Portuguese broadcaster Radio Renascenca, on the occasion of the Portuguese bishops' “ad Limina” visit, and the other to the Argentine Radio Milenium, focusing on care for creation and the value of friendship and dialogue.

In the first, in response to a question regarding an eventual visit to Portugal to commemorate the centenary of the apparitions of the Virgin at Fatima, Francis expresses his wish to visit the country and adds that “the Virgin always asks us to receive and care for the family and the commandments. She does not ask for anything unusual. … And she appears to children. It is curious, she always seeks the simplest souls”.

With regard to the phenomenon of migration to Europe, he affirms, “it is the tip of an iceberg. We see these refugees, these poor people, who flee from war, from hunger. … But behind this there is the cause, and the cause is an unfair socio-economic system”. He adds, “Speaking of the ecological issue, within our socio-economic structure, within politics, at the centre there must always be the person. And today's dominant economic system has replaced the person at the centre with the god of money, the idol”. Therefore, he says, it is necessary to look to the root causes. “When the cause is hunger, create jobs and invest. When the cause is war, seek peace, work for peace. Today the world is at war; it is at war against itself”.

In this respect, the Pope reaffirms the importance of acceptance. “Accepting people, and welcoming them as they come”. With regard to his appeal to all parishes in Europe to host a family of refugees, he specified, “When I talk about a parish welcoming a family, I do not mean that they should go and live in the parish house, but rather that the parish community seek a place, a corner where they can make a little apartment or, if there is no other option, rent a modest apartment for this family; that they should have a roof over their heads, they should be welcomed, and that they should be included within the community”.

He also considers the theme of the culture of well-being, commenting that the birthrate is very low in many countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. “When there is an empty space, people seek to fill it. If a country has no children, migrants come to occupy that space. … Not wanting children is, in part – and this is my interpretation, I don't know if it is correct – it is linked to the culture of comfort, isn't it? And then the elderly are left alone. I think that the great challenge facing Europe is to become once again Mother Europe, rather than Grandmother Europe. … It must be recognised that Europe has an exceptional culture – centuries of culture – and must regain her capacity for leadership in the concert of nations. Or rather, she must become once again the Europe who shows the way, as she has the culture to do so. … Europe must assume her role once again, as she has the culture to do so, to recover her identity. It is true that Europe has made mistakes. I do not reproach, I merely recall this. When she has wanted to speak about her identity, she has avoided recognising what is probably the deepest part of it: her Christian roots. We all make mistakes in life, but for Europe it is not too late to change”.

The Pope also emphasises that the Church must be outbound and must be willing to take risks. “If a church, a parish, a diocese, an institute, lives closed up in itself, it comes to a halt. It is the same thing that happens to a closed up home. We end up with an unhealthy Church, with fixed rules, without creativity, 'insured' but not safe. Instead, if a church or a parish goes out and evangelises, the same thing happens that can occur to any person who goes out into the street – accidents can befall them. So, between a sickly Church or an accident-prone one, I would prefer an accident-prone Church as at least she reaches out”.

With reference to his expectations of the Jubilee of Mercy, he expresses his hope that “everyone will come. May they come and experience God's love and forgiveness”, and with regard to the letter to Archbishop Fisichella in which he requests forgiveness during the Jubilee for the most difficult cases and to his two Motu Proprios on the reform of processes for declaring nullity of marriage, he explains that his intention is “to simplify … to facilitate faith among the people … to enable the Church to be a mother”.

In the interview granted to Milenium, Francis says that “we are mistreating creation; at times we treat it as if it were our worst enemy”, and “we live in a system that, to earn money, has displaced man from the centre and put money in his place, leading to the existence of “corrupt systems, with slavery, forced labour and disregard for creation”.

In relation to fundamentalism “as its followers are faithful to an idea but not to a reality”, Francis warns of the danger represented by this “darkness that obscures our horizon” and causes us to become closed up in our own convictions and 'ideologies'. “It is a wall that prevents encounter with others”.

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