- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

VATICAN CITY (AP)

ope Benedict XVI said over the weekend that low birthrates in Canada are the result of the “pervasive effects of secularism” and asked the country’s bishops to counter the trend by preaching the truth of Christ.

The pontiff, who has spoken out several times in favor of large families, blamed Canada’s low birthrate on social ills and moral ambiguities that result from secular ideology.

“Like many countries … Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism,” the pope told visiting bishops from Canada. “One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birthrate.”

Statistics Canada reported 10.5 births per 1,000 people last year.

“Canadians look to you to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion the splendor of the truth of Christ, who dispels the darkness and illuminates the way to renew ecclesiastical and civic life,” Benedict told the bishops in English.

Separately, he told the new Spanish ambassador to the Holy See that family based on marriage should not be “replaced or confused” by other arrangements. It was an allusion to same-sex unions, which are legal in Spain.

Benedict said he hopes his planned visit to Valencia, Spain, in July to attend a church gathering dedicated to families would give him “an opportunity to celebrate the beauty and fecundity of the family based on marriage, its very high calling and its essential social value.”

The pope has been leading a church campaign in defense of traditional families.

He also repeated the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

“The church proclaims without reserve the primordial right to life, from conception to natural death, the right to birth, to create and live in a family, without it being substituted or confused by other forms or different institutions,” the pontiff said in Spanish.

Ambassador Francisco Vazquez described the audience as “cordial and affectionate.”

Ties between the Holy See and Spain have been strained since the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party took office in 2004 with an agenda that has included legalizing same-sex unions and making it easier for Spaniards to obtain divorces in the traditionally Roman Catholic country.

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