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Monday, June 25, 2018

Greetings for the Pontifical Academy for Life

At 11:30am this morning (5:30am EDT), in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the XXIV General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV).  The theme of this gathering - which is taking place at the New Synod Hall at the Vatican from 25 to 27 June 2018 - is Equal beginnings.  But then? A global responsibility.


Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Pontifical Academy for Life

Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet to all of you, beginning with your President, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, whom I thank for introducing me to this General Assembly, in which the theme of human life will be situated in the broad context of the globalized world in which we live today. And also, I want to offer greeting to Cardinal Sgreccia, ninety years old but enthusiastic, young, in the struggle for life. Thank you, Your Eminence, for what you have done in this field and for what you are doing. Thank you.

The wisdom that should inspire our attitude towards human ecology urges us to consider the ethical and spiritual quality of life in all its phases. There is a conceived human life, a life in gestation, a life that comes to light, a child's life, a teenage life, an adult life, an aged and consummate life - and eternal life exists. There is a life that exists in family and community, a life that is made up of invocation and hope. Just as there is fragile and sick human life, wounded, offended, dejected, marginalized, discarded life. It is always human life. It is the life of human persons, who inhabit the earth created by God and who share the common home with all living creatures. Certainly in the biology laboratories life is studied with the tools that allow us to explore its physical, chemical and mechanical aspects. This is a very important and indispensable study, but one which must be integrated with a broader and deeper perspective, which calls for attention to be paid to the properly human life, which bursts on the world scene with the prodigy of the word as well as thought, affections and spirit. What recognition does the human wisdom about life receive from the natural sciences? And what political culture inspires the promotion and protection of real human life? The beautiful work of life is the creation of a new person, the education of his spiritual and creative qualities, the initiation to the love of family and community, the care that is taken of his vulnerabilities and his wounds; as well as initiation into the life of the children of God, in Jesus Christ.

When we deliver children to deprivation, the poor to hunger, the persecuted to war, the elderly to abandonment, do we not ourselves, instead, do the dirty work of death? Where does the dirty work of death come from? It comes from sin. Evil tries to persuade us that death is the end of everything, that we have come to the world by chance and we are destined to end up in nothingness. Excluding the other from our horizon, life folds back on itself and becomes a consumer good. Narcissus, the character of ancient mythology, who loves himself and ignores the good of others, is naive and does not even realize it. Meanwhile, however, it spreads a very contagious spiritual virus, which condemns us to become mirror-men and mirror-women, who see only ourselves and nothing else. It is like becoming blind to life and its dynamic, like a gift received from others and asking to be placed in a position of responsibility for sharing this gift with others.

The global vision of bioethics, which you are preparing to relaunch on the field of social ethics and of planetary humanism, strengthened by Christian inspiration, will engage with more seriousness and rigor to defuse complicity with the dirty work of death, supported by sin. In this way, you will be able to give back to the reasons and practices of the covenant with the grace destined by God for the life of each one of us. This use of bioethics will not move from illness and death to decide the meaning of life and define the value of the person. It will rather move from the profound conviction of the irrevocable dignity of the human person, as God loves us, the dignity of every person, in every phase and condition of his existence, in the search for the forms of love and care that must be addressed to his vulnerability. and his fragility.

Therefore, in the first place, this global bioethics will be a specific way to develop the perspective of integral ecology that is proper to the Encyclical Laudato si ', in which I have insisted on these strong points: the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet; the belief that everything in the world is intimately connected; the critique of the new paradigm and the forms of power that derive from technology; the invitation to look for other ways of understanding the economy and progress; the proper value of every creature; the human sense of ecology; the need for sincere and honest debates; the grave responsibility of international and local politics; the culture of waste and the proposal of a new way of life (LS, 16).

Secondly, in a holistic view of the person, it is a matter of articulating with ever greater clarity all the concrete connections and differences in which the universal human condition dwells and which involve us, beginning with our bodies. In fact our body places us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. Acceptance of one's body as a gift from God is necessary to accept the whole world as a gift from the Father and a common home; instead a logic of domination over one's own body is transformed into a sometimes subtle logic of dominion over creation. Learning to welcome your body, to take care of it and to respect its meanings is essential for a true human ecology. Also to appreciate one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary in order to recognize oneself in the encounter with the other who is different from oneself (LS, 155).

Therefore, it is necessary that we proceed with a careful discernment of the complex fundamental differences of human life: of man and woman, of fatherhood and motherhood, of filiation and fraternity, of sociality and also of all the different ages of life. As well as all the difficult conditions and all the delicate or dangerous passages that require special ethical wisdom and courageous moral resistance: sexuality and generation, sickness and old age, insufficiency and disability, deprivation and exclusion, violence and war. "The defence of the innocent who was not born, for example, must be clear, firm and passionate, because there is at stake the dignity of human life, always sacred, and love requires it for every person beyond his development. But equally sacred is the life of the poor who are already born, who are struggling in misery, abandonment, exclusion, trafficking in persons, in the hidden euthanasia of the sick and the elderly who are deprived of care, in the new forms of slavery, and in every form of waste (Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, 101).

In the texts and teachings of Christian and ecclesiastical formation, these themes of the ethics of human life will have to find an appropriate place in the context of a global anthropology, and not be confined to the limit-questions of morality and law. A conversion to today's centrality of integral human ecology, that is, of a harmonious and comprehensive understanding of the human condition, I hope you find in your intellectual, civil and religious commitment, valid support and propositional intonation.

Global bioethics therefore urges us toward the wisdom of a profound and objective discernment of the value of personal and community life, which must be preserved and promoted even in the most difficult conditions. We must also strongly state that, without the adequate support of a responsible human proximity, no purely juridical regulation and no technical aid can, on their own, guarantee conditions and relational contexts corresponding to the dignity of the person. The prospect of a globalization that, left only to its spontaneous dynamics, tends to increase and deepen inequalities, urges an ethical response in favour of justice. The attention to social, economic, cultural and environmental factors that determine health is part of this commitment, and becomes a concrete way to realize the right of every people to participate, on the basis of equality and solidarity, in the enjoyment of goods that are destined for all men (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo rei socialis, 21).

Finally, the culture of life must take a more serious look at the serious question of its ultimate destination. It is a matter of highlighting with greater clarity what directs the existence of man towards a horizon that surpasses him: every person is freely called to communion with God himself as a son and to participate in his own happiness ... The Church teaches that eschatological hope does not diminish the importance of earthly commitments, but rather gives new reasons to support their implementation (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 21). We need to examine ourselves more deeply on the ultimate destination of life, capable of restoring dignity and meaning to the mystery of its deepest and most sacred affections. The life of man, beautiful to the point of being enchanted and fragile to the point of dying, refers beyond itself: we are infinitely more than what we can do for ourselves. But man's life is also incredibly tenacious, certainly for a mysterious grace that comes from above, in the audacity of his invocation of a justice and a definitive victory of love. And it is even capable - hoping against all hope - to sacrifice itself for this purpose until the end. Recognizing and appreciating this fidelity and dedication to life arouses gratitude and responsibility in us, and encourages us to generously offer our knowledge and our experience to the whole human community. Christian wisdom must reopen with passion and audacity the thought of the destination of the human race to the life of God, which has promised to open to the love of life, beyond death, the infinite horizon of loving bodies of light, without tears. And to amaze them eternally with the ever new charm of all the visible and invisible things that are hidden in the womb of the Creator. Thank you.
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