In a homily on Wednesday, Pope Francis warned against the incoming "demographic winter" due to Europe's widespread epidemic of childless families.

Speaking at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis gave his audience an important Christmas message to contemplate in awaiting the baby Jesus represented by an empty cradle: sterility and fruitlessness will spell death for Western civilization. From Vatican News:

Sterility and fruitfulness were the two words at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily as he reflected on the births of Samson and of John the Baptist, both of them borne to sterile women, as recounted in the readings of the day.

He commented on how in those days sterility was considered a shame while the birth of a child was seen as a grace and a gift from God.

In the Bible, he said, there are many sterile women who desire a child, and mothers who mourn the loss of their son because they are left without descendants, like Sarah, Noemi, Hannah, Elizabeth, etc. …

Fruitfulness in the Bible is a blessing

The Pope noted how God's first commandment in Genesis is to “Fill the earth, be fruitful!” and said, “Where there is God there is fruitfulness."

Then the Roman Pontiff pointed his criticisms at countries that "have chosen the path of sterility and suffer from that serious disease that it a demographic winter (…) They do not have children."

"Material and spiritual fruitfulness, the Pope explained, means giving life," reports VN. "He said a person may choose not to marry, like priests and consecrated persons, but must live by giving life to others. Woe to us, he continued, if we are not fruitful with good works."

Willful infertility, says the Pope, is an instrument of Satan: “He does not want us to give life, be it physical or spiritual, to others. He who lives for himself produces selfishness, pride, vanity, greasing the soul without living for others. The devil is the one who grows the weeds of egoism and stops us from being fruitful."

Gesturing to an empty cradle, Pope Francis asked for hearts to be full of hope and anticipation, asserting:

Here is an empty cradle, we can look at it. It can be seen as a symbol of hope because the Child will come, or it can be seen as an object from a museum, empty of life. Our heart is like the cradle: is it empty? Or is it open to continuously receive and give life? Come, Lord, fill the cradle, fill my heart and help me to give life, to be fruitful.