Blog Post

Cardinal: Demographic Winter Points to "Serious Cultural Catastrophe"

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist The president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said that societies without children have not only a bleak future, but also experience a "lack of balance between generations" and an "educational poverty." Zenit News is reporting that the Cardinal made his comments on Sunday while celebrating the solemnity of the Madonna della Guardia at the shrine of Liguria. He referred to Italy's negative birthrate, which currently stands at -0.047 percent, saying this "demographic winter" is linked to cultural values. "Boys and girls and young people, in fact, constrain us to engage in discussions, make us come out of ourselves, we who, because of age and feebleness, tend to fall back on our own immediate needs," he said.  "It is not only parents that, having children, must change their points of view and styles, they must plan and organize themselves in relation to the children in their various ages." He continued: "A society without babies and children, just as a society without the elderly, is seriously mutilated and unable to function." He compared today's cultural values with those of the time of Christ, when the Holy Family lived a simple but joyful life of toil in their village, engaged in relationships with their neighbors, participated in community worship, etc. "Everything makes one think of a profound and positive adherence to life as a gift that is given and which is not our absolute property," the cardinal said. "It makes one perceive the awareness of being within the history of generations, of a tradition that does not coerce but helps. In a word, we feel the breath of hope." But in today's societies, couples and families seem to collapse before "the blows of life and of relationships," he said. "The efforts of every day seem tedious and without meaning, hence unbearable. The future loses value and polish, the present is emphasized for what it promises of immediate satisfaction." In this context, the prelate said, "fidelity is understood as something repetitive, tedious, deprived of thrills." This is why the Church has long held that a demographic crisis such as the one being experienced throughout Europe, points to a "serious cultural catastrophe." The solution is a return to the values of family, because families are the "school of humanity and faith," he said.  In the context of family, one learns to love by being loved, and to witness firsthand the values of acceptance, humility, reliability and the "miraculous power of forgiveness given and received, of the ability to endure," he said. In the family there is also "prayer made together every day, participation in Sunday Mass, liturgical festivities with their traditions, pilgrimages to shrines, sacred images in the home," the cardinal added. Every word is a lesson of faith, a "moment of that school that will leave a sign in the heart." "Can a mother turn away from the gaze of her children?" Cardinal Bagnasco reflected. "We know it is impossible, and this is sufficient to look ahead with trust."