Published November 24, 2005
VATICAN CITY (RNS) - Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 2 called on Italian lawmakers to provide incentives to large families as Europe continues to struggle with sagging fertility rates.
The European Union's statistical agency Eurostat reported last week that the 25-nation bloc made a slight improvement in its fertility rates, climbing from 1.48 children per woman in 2003 to 1.5 in 2004.
But the uptick comes amid a decades-long downward trend that has caused Europe to depend on foreign immigration to prop up its shrinking native population.
More than 1.9 million foreign immigrants entered the EU in 2004, compensating for the lack of native births, which numbered fewer than half a million.
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