Statement at the 56th Session of the Commission for Population and Development
New York, 10-14 April 2023
The Holy See is pleased to participate in this Fifty-Sixth Session of the Commission on Population and Development and to offer some reflections on its theme “Population, education, and sustainable development.”
As stated in Principle 2 of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, “people are the most important and valuable resource of any nation.” Ensuring that all individuals “are given the opportunity to make the most of their potential” requires advancing a model of development that has the human person at its center and promotes human flourishing, in all dimensions and in every stage of life. Yet, many development policies continue to reflect a view of the human person either as an obstacle to development or as a means of production to be exploited according to principles of profit and efficiency maximization. Population policies that see population growth as a disruptive force to contain through fertility reduction strategies and any reduction of human beings to their utility or productivity are both at odds with the inherent dignity of the human person. Rather they fuel what Pope Francis has so often decried as a “throwaway culture.”Respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death and the promotion of the integral human development of every man, woman, and child must always be at the core of development policies.
In this regard, education is a fundamental enabler of integral human development.Education is more than the transmission and accumulation of knowledge or a means of preparing future workers, but a key to human flourishing and an effective antidote to poverty and social exclusion. As Pope Francis has said, education and training are the “primary means of promoting integral human development,” for “they make individuals more free and responsible.” There is urgent need for a renewed commitment to educational models that uphold the intrinsic purpose of education, which is to allow each person to realize his or her full potential, assimilate fundamental values and virtues, and, on those foundations, shape his or her own future.
In this regard, the Holy See recalls that parents are the primary educators of their children. As Pope Francis has stressed, the family is “the first place where the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.” The role of parents is irreplaceable and inalienable, and consequently “incapable of being entirely delegated […] or usurped by others.” It is therefore essential to respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents with regard to the education of their children. This includes respecting the right of parents “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
Yet, certain ideologies portrait parents as a barrier to the personal fulfillment and wellbeing of their children and consequently deny the prior right of parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to them, under the guise of promoting the best interest of the child. This becomes even more concerning when children are exposed, without any appropriate direction and guidance from parents and legal guardians, to educational programs that “relativize and trivialize the very experience of love […], exalting its fleeting aspects and obscuring its fundamental values.”
In conclusion, the Holy See, especially through the work of the many Catholic schools, universities, and educational institutions around the world, will continue to play its role in ensuring “that everyone has access to a quality education consonant with the dignity of the human person and our common vocation to fraternity.”
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 ICPD Programme of Action.
 Pope Francis, Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2023.
 Pope Francis, Message for the 2022 World Day of Peace, No. 3.
 Cf. Compendium of the Catholic Social Teaching, 238-239.
 Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti no. 114 (2020).
 Compendium of the Catholic Social Teaching, 239.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 13(3).
 Cf. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 26(3).
 Compendium of the Catholic Social Teaching, 223.