WASHINGTON — There has been no outbreak of the Black Death, no world war to kill millions of people, but for the first time in recent memory, Europe's overall population declined last year.

The population decrease is becoming so glaring that it is starting to get at least some media attention.

Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg leapt into the population debate last month when he called on Europeans to have more children.

In a full page ad in the Swedish daily Dagens Industri, he pleaded, “If nothing drastic happens soon there won't be anyone who can work and put up for our pensions.”

More recently, the prestigious journal, Foreign Policy, sported a cover story titled: “Wanted: More Babies.”

Its author, Nicholas Eberstadt, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Harvard University Center for Population and Developmental Studies, noted specifically that “population growth is poised to decelerate markedly over the next generation,” and that “83 countries and territories are thought to exhibit below replacement fertility patterns today.”

Closer to home, he cites U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that “in 2025 the projected median age will be 43.”

Armed with just such statistics, the Vatican has been battling United Nations-style contraceptive policies for years, forging alliances with various Catholic and Muslim nations to stop the spread of policies that the Church views as immoral.

But like Eberstadt, Msgr. Anthony Frontiero, a member of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, told the Register that he expects that the new statistics will simply cause a shift in tactics to something worse, not a decrease in population programs' funding.

“There might be a shift to a more forceful promotion of abortion,” he told the Register, explaining that this would likely be labeled as a shift in focus to “the rights of women in this regard.” In other words, he said, “there is not a lot of hope for change” at the United Nations.

At least one group, Population Action International, a liberal pro-population control lobbying group whose stated mission is to advance “policies and programs that slow population growth in order to enhance the quality of life for all people,” seems about to prove accurate Msgr. Frontiero's fears.

Sally Ethelston, a spokesperson for Population Action told the Register that while she has not reviewed all of the material, the current population control scheme “is something that people want,” and she added “it is saving lives.”

Ethelston said population control is “about people and their desire to have the number of children that they want,” and she worried that the U.N. and U.S. Census data “might not be entirely accurate.”

She also said she was concerned that recent policies in Singapore and Japan that promote a higher birthrate might “not be voluntary.”

Eberstadt denied that pro-family policies in Asia were a cause for that kind of concern.

“These programs aren't coercive because they aren't forcing people to have babies,” he told the Register, but “China is coercive because they force people not to have children.”