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by Mgr Charles Vella
The Pope stated recently "I have a dream to see Europe to become a Mother". I too have a dream for Malta, to see its birth rate increasing and so it becomes a Mother. At the moment most European countries have a low birth rate and some like France and Italy are introducing political measures to increase the younger generations. One example is Genova and Bologna where for every hundred births, the number of deaths exceeds by 110.
This situation gives according the latest Report of ISTAT, the national Institute for statistics and demography, in twenty years time Italy will become the nation with the eldest generation of aged population.
Only recently I wrote about "Who will care of our Elderly?". The welfare aid by public and private institutions is not enough while the aged population is on the increase.We need to increase our birth rate to cope with the problem of ageing. So far we do not have a political and demographic conscience. Last year we had 2,400 marriages. The first and often the last child take a couple or more years be concieved. The causes are multiple from financial,housing and the career of the working women.
It is here where the government launches a political integrated with the family policy, as laid down the Council of Europe,in which I served as Chajr for these diciplines.
France and Germany were the first,after the Scandinavian countries, to the lead,Italy of the Renzini government has introduced new measures for the benefit of families and children.
These policies for now are from 80 euros for families with one child,with an income from 7 to 25 ,000 euros yearly. The 80 are for each child. 160 euros monthly for each child where the income is below 7,000 yearly. As from next year there will be double the amount for each " bebe". The policy also incudes the increase of kindergartens for children,of benefits for parents, health eduacation
A rapid look at Europe shows that Germany gives 150 monthly,France from 130 monthly for the first two and 300 for three,Austria grants 100 /monthly till the age of nineteen, Spain (where the problem is similar to Italy )grants all services for the first child free,while Sweden grants for each child till sixteen 100 euros and parental leave of 480 days. Not too bad,but as the Opposition in Italy states is not enough. I ask how is the situation in Malta ?
When we founded the Cana Movement in the Fifties the birth rate was more than double and mass exodus through emigration. Now we are at rock bottom. Quite rightly Cana from the Sixties started teaching Natural Family Planing, but what it do in then light of Pope Francis Apostolic Exortation to encourage couples to be more open to life. The preparation for marriage should also open towards an increase of more than one child,for each child is a blessing . We cannot just say have more than one child but we have to create " a mentality and culture for life," to run counter to " anti life mentality " ( St John Paul II) Cana should have the courage and wisdom,which it aleady has , to respond to these social and also pastoral needs.
Money aid is not enough, its also education which the Church and Cana need urgently. I do not know how government reponds and likewise the Oppostion, young families need also aid, social aid, lower taxation, medical and social services. I am afraid we are giving priority to legislations and debates ,instead of having a vision for now and the future generation.
Let us all " dream " so as Malta will become a Mother,an Island where the family notwithstanding breakdowns, is still a jewel.
Mgr Charles G Vella is the Founder of Cana Movement and Counselling Centres in Italy.
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