A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands said that an increase in population, far from being a "nightmare," could mean social and economic growth for the country.

"[Papua New Guinea] does not need to promote family planning or practices such as contraception and abortion," Fr. Giorgio Licini, PIME, secretary of the conference's Commission for Social Communications, said in a statement to Agenzia Fides.

Fr. Licini pointed out that Papua New Guinea has large natural resources and a land area comparable to France and Germany combined, but with a population of only 8 million.

He said that the annual population growth rate of about 3 percent, similar to many developing countries but far ahead of the aging Western nations, is not a problem for the country.

"With a population which is still limited and with considerable internal resources, [Papua New Guinea] can easily plan to become a country of 30-40 million people by the end of the century, with a much stronger and diversified economy," Fr. Licini said.

He noted however that the country needs "to fight corruption, instill a better sense of discipline among citizens, and work hard for education, infrastructure development and a society free of crime," while stressing a commitment to improving literacy in the population.

The bishops themselves are focusing their pastoral plan for the next five years on the family and on the education of young people.

Fides reported that at its recent synod, the General Assembly of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands said they will address the "educational emergency" for young people who do not attend schools, the practice of cohabitation out of wedlock, the decline of traditional religious marriage, and polygamy, as central to their care of the family.


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