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Vatican Addresses U.N. on Population and Development

On the 10th Anniversary of the Cairo Conference

A decade ago, we were informed of United Nations studies indicating that a rapid decrease in the global rate of population growth was expected to begin during the 1990s and carry on into the new century. It is now a fact that population growth has declined appreciably in many of the industrialized developed nations, and that this decline poses a serious threat to their future. The Holy See continues to follow these matters carefully...

All development worthy of the name must be integral and cannot consist in the simple accumulation of wealth...but must be pursued with due consideration for the social, cultural and spiritual dimensions of every human being.

Development programs must respect the cultural heritage of peoples and nations, foster structures of participation and shared responsibility, and empower our human capacity, so that each one of us can become the person that he or she was created to be.

It would therefore be wiser if focus were placed upon the formulation of population policies that promoted a responsible kind of personal liberty, instead of one that was too narrowly defined.

From this, it follows, among other things, that the duty to safeguard the family demands that special attention be given to securing for husband and wife the liberty to decide responsibly, free from all social or legal coercion, the number of children they will have and the spacing of their births. It should be the intent of governments and other agencies to help create the social conditions which will enable couples themselves to make appropriate decisions in the light of their responsibilities. We know that responsible parenthood is not a question of unlimited procreation or lack of awareness of what is involved in rearing children, but it also involves the right of parents to use their liberty wisely. Moreover, couples that choose to have large families deserve to be supported.

The seriousness of the challenges that governments and, above all, parents must face in the education of the younger generation means that we cannot abdicate our responsibility to lead young people to a deeper understanding of their own dignity and potentiality as persons. It remains our task to challenge them with a demanding ethic which fully respects their dignity and which leads them to the wisdom which is needed in order to face the many demands of life.

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