Europe seems almost to be losing faith in its future, Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday, citing the continent's population trends, which include generally low birth rates.
"Under a demographic profile, one must unfortunately note that Europe seems to be going down a road which could lead it to take its leave from history," Benedict told a gathering of the continent's bishops.
Benedict did not elaborate on the population trends, but the continent's demographics have been under intense scrutiny for decades.
Demographers have been sounding alarm bells about low birth rates in much of Europe. In countries such as Italy, where many married couples have one or no children, the population is expected to shrink dramatically in a generation or two unless the birth rate rapidly increases. Immigrant populations have generally kept the birth rates from decreasing even more.
Benedict said Europe's population trends, "besides putting economic growth at risk, can also cause enormous difficulties for social cohesion, and, above all, favor dangerous individualism, careless about the consequences for the future."
"You could almost think that the European continent is in fact losing faith in its own future," Benedict said.