Celebrate and Serve Life!

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Audience on 3 October 1995 to the participants of the World Pro-Life Congress.

Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. With great joy I welcome you on the occasion of this World Congress, which is one of the first concerted responses to the publication of the Encyclical <Evangelium vitae>, a document in which I intended to address not only the faithful of the Church but all "the people of life" (cf. n. 101).

I extend a special greeting to Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, whom I thank for his words just now. I next greet Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the international and national leaders of Pro-life Movements, and all of you who work generously for these movements. I also cordially welcome the representatives of the "pro-life" organizations that are active all over the world.

I am pleased that the Pontifical Council for the Family has organized this important meeting. Your presence bears meaningful witness to what the pro-life movements represent in the world: more than 100 organizations, some of which are international, with a history of involvement and activities that form a strong bulwark in defence of life.

The decision of the Pontifical Council for the Family to invite you to this congress to reflect on the Encyclical <Evangelium vitae> confirms the harmony that exists between the Catholic Church's teaching and the purpose of your movements. Through this meeting it will be strengthened and made more effective at the world level, especially as regards policy and unity of goals.

Defence of life must be reflected in culture and legislation

2. The publication of the Encyclical <Evangelium vitae> was without doubt a historical milestone in the commitment to life, above all in the context of the Church's pastoral activity. The Gospel of life unequivocally requires that the teaching about the inviolable value of human life in all its stages and conditions more and more become an integral part of evangelization. Local communities, Dioceses, parishes, associations and movements must make a firm commitment to promoting and defending human life. It is to be hoped, as was explained in the fourth chapter of the Encyclical (cf. nn. 87-91), that structures and groups specifically dedicated to achieving this goal will emerge within pastoral institutions.

To proclaim, celebrate and serve life is the Church's task in her ordinary and constant pastoral activity. Your activity as members of pro-life movements, involved with your own particular autonomy as lay people and citizens in both the civil and political spheres, does not dispense any ecclesial community from carrying out its pastoral role in support of life. These forms of presence are complementary and must be in harmony with one another, for the benefit of the Church herself and of society.

This convergent action of pastoral institutions and pro-life movements is justified by the fact that life, a basic civil value in every society, reveals its full meaning in the light of faith.

3. What is starting at the moment will thus be <a new and richer phase of work and involvement>, so that from her own standpoint the Church will bring proclamation, sanctification and daily service to the family and to life with renewed vigour.

It is clear to all that the defence of life is a commitment which not only concerns private morality but is also <a social and political issue> indeed, it calls into question the very <raison d'etre> of political society. It follows that the commitment to the defence of life cannot fail to be reflected, by peaceful, convinced community action, at the level of custom, culture and legislation.

The victory of truth and life is already part of the history of salvation; it is the task of all the forces inspired by respect for human dignity to engage in incorporating it into human history.

4. This extensive, increased commitment is particularly required by the new problems posed by the progress of <medical science> and the application of <demographic policies> in the world. In fact, today a vast range of typically bioethical issues, of great importance to the history of humanity itself, is brought to our attention. The ethical involvement in favour of life in all its stages today extends to the defence of the human being's genetic inheritance against any manipulation or selection, to safeguarding the proper nature of conjugal love and procreation, to the search for justice and fairness in the allocation of resources for health care, and lastly, to the protection of the environmental balance.

There is talk of commitment to life and health, to the organization of public health services, especially in the developing countries, and finally, of the survival of humanity in the face of the threat of atomic weapons, chemical warfare and the possibility of genetic manipulation.

In view of so broad a field of old and new conflicts, where threats "<are scientifically and systematically programmed" (Evangelium vitae>, n. 17), it is essential to muster forces and pool our knowledge and develop shared strategies that are harmonious and effective.

Devote particular attention to the education of youth

5. Your mission opens up truly vast horizons: it also extends to recalling the irreplaceable value of the education of young people and families in true, faithful and chaste love. It is unrealistic to suppose that a culture of life can be affirmed <if the serious education of consciences is lacking, and especially if there is no real affective orientation to family values>. These presuppositions are proving ever more important in a consistent strategy, to defend life.

In this context, <family and life> are an inseparable pair, and likewise, <chaste and faithful love> is the first level of and irreplaceable condition for the culture of life.

6. These commitments, which represent the goals of your strategy, require a more thorough training in the area of medical, ethical, legal and social issues. The battle in defence of life can only be won if, in addition to the enthusiasm and courage of all those involved, specific training in these areas is also provided. Formation in the important field of bioethics is particularly required. In the first place this should involve health-care workers, but also every individual citizen.

The pastoral contribution of the Church's institutions, to which the Pontifical Academy for Life was recently added and was created to work in harmony with the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, for its part can provide irreplaceable support to joint action in defence of life. But within your movements, the contribution made by intellectuals, jurists and those in the medical profession will be especially valuable, just as the contribution of those responsible for training young people and the leaders of educational movements is indispensable, once they themselves have first studied in depth the inescapable moral demands in the defence of human life. I urge you to pay special attention to adolescents and schoolchildren, so that they receive a suitable introduction to the moral, civil and religious values consistent with the dignity of the human person and the defence and promotion of life.

It is equally urgent to pay attention to what is happening in parliaments, where the legislative trends in the area of biological law and the protection of human corporeity and the family present many disturbing aspects. Those who have at heart the dignity of the person and the future destiny of humanity cannot forgo a vigilant and active presence.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, in your basic task of teaching, promoting and defending life, may you be supported by the solidarity of the Church and that of all men and women of goodwill.

Your strength lies in the truth to which you witness but the effectiveness of your work largely depends on harmonious joint efforts. As I offer my warmest wishes to you and all those who work in the movements represented here, I invoke the Blessing of the Lord of life on you all.

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