Pope urges Italians to have more kids
Pope John Paul II delivered a historic speech to the Italian parliament on Thursday, urging Italians to have more children to reverse the country's declining birth rate.
It was the first time a pope has addressed Italy's legislature. In the speech, the pontiff also called on authorities to show prisoners "a gesture of clemency" by reducing their sentences and repeated his call for the new European Union constitution to recognise Christianity's tradition on the continent.
The Holy Father acknowledged the significance of the visit considering the turbulent history of relations between Italy and the Catholic Church.
"We all know that this association has gone through widely different phases and circumstances, subject to the vicissitudes and contradictions of history," he told lawmakers gathered in Palazzo Montecitorio, the lower chamber of parliament.
However, the bond between the two is now deep, he said, adding that Italy's very identity "would be most difficult to understand without reference to Christianity, its life-blood."
His speech, interrupted about 20 times by applause, was anticipated for weeks by Italians and treated as an enormously symbolic event.
However, it was not without opposition: A handful of deputies said they wouldn't attend to underscore that Italy remains a lay country.
Camera dei Deputati | Dedicated site
15 Nov 2002