Pope raises alarm about Italy’s precariously low birthrate

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ROME (AP) — Pope Francis is adding his voice to the chorus of alarm about Italy’s falling population, which the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated. At a conference Friday, Francis called for government policies that provide the necessary financial stability to encourage young people to stay in Italy and have families. Italy last year recorded 404,000 live births, the lowest number since its unification in 1861. The low numbers worsened a steady decline that has already made Italy’s fertility rate one of the lowest in Europe. With the spike in COVID-19-related deaths in 2020, the deficit between births and deaths last year hit 342,000 — the biggest gap since the 1918 Spanish Flu and the equivalent of having lost a city the size of Florence.

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