Negative Birthrate Warps Society, Says Cardinal
Pays Homage to Life in Midst of Italy's Demographic Winter
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ROME, AUG. 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A culture without children and without elderly people is seriously warped and unable to function, says the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, made this affirmation Sunday when he celebrated the solemnity of the Madonna della Guardia with a Mass at the shrine of Liguria at the top of Mount Figogna.
The prelate reflected on the beauty of fidelity and on the family as the "womb of life."
Speaking of Italy's negative birthrate (-0.047%), the cardinal asserted that "demographic balance is not only necessary for the physical survival of a community -- which without children has no future -- but is also a condition for that alliance between generations that is essential for a normal democratic dialectic."
He said the Church's long-time assertion that a demographic crisis points to a "serious cultural catastrophe" is because of this.
A lack of children creates not only a bleak future, the cardinal reflected, but also a "lack of balance between generations" and an "educational poverty."
"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," the cardinal proposed. "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."
"A society without babies and children," he continued, "just as a society without the elderly, is seriously mutilated and unable to function."
Cardinal Bagnasco observed that the issue of falling birthrates is linked to cultural values.
"If we look at the sacred image of Our Lady with the Child we do not have to make an effort to imagine the life of Nazareth: they lived in absolute simplicity, in the joyful toil of daily work, at home and in the carpenter's shop; they lived the life of the village, relationships with their next door neighbors, participation in worship, the presence of God," he reflected.
"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."
On the contrary, Cardinal Bagnasco contended, in the cultural climate of today, couples and families seem to collapse before "the blows of life and of relationships."
"The efforts of every day seem tedious and without meaning, hence unbearable," he considered. "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."
But fidelity is the condition of growth, Cardinal Bagnasco affirmed. Love in family life is transformed over time: "from the initial effervescence, it changes into something more profound and rooted, strengthened by joys and efforts."
"In this growth, the daily repetition of so many little and great duties, of so many actions that seem grey, is like the tranquil and continuous rain that bathes the earth and fertilizes it," he suggested. "It is not the storm of great passions and impetuous transports that make one grow or that measure the substance of love, but daily and humble fidelity in the sign of love."
Learning to live
The Italian prelate affirmed that the family is a "school of humanity and faith."
One learns to love by being loved, one learns to trust in oneself, one discovers "the beauty of the different ages," he said. And in the family, one sees firsthand the values of acceptance, humility, reliability and the "miraculous power of forgiveness given and received, of the ability to endure."
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."