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A Vatican official has urged Christians to have more children as they are creating a religion vacuum which is being filed by Islam.

Father Piero Gheddo, a senior Vatican official said the low European birth rate of indigenous European's along with the influx of Muslim migrants with large families would mean that Europe would soon be dominated by Islam.

"The challenge must be taken seriously" said Fr Gheddo. "Certainly from a demographic point of view, as it is clear to everyone that Italians are decreasing by 120,000 or 130,000 persons a year because of abortion and broken families – while among the more than 200,000 legal immigrants a year in Italy, more than half are Muslims and Muslim families, which have a much higher level of growth."

He said "If we consider ourselves a Christian country, we should return to the practice of Christian life, which would also solve the problem of empty cradles."

The Italian priest is from the Vatican's Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, a society of missionaries and is a highly respected figure.