The Friday Five: Pope Francis and Respect for Life

This week – and throughout the month of October – we celebrate Respect Life Month. We showcase how, as a diocesan family, we joyfully embrace and deeply respect each life from conception until natural death.

By: Elise Italiano, Director of Communications

Pope Francis waves from the steps as he boards an American Airlines jetliner at Philadelphia International Airport Sept. 27 for his return to Rome following a six-day apostolic visit to the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See POPE-VOLUNTEERS-FAREWELL Sept. 28, 2015.

Pope Francis waves from the steps as he boards an American Airlines jetliner at Philadelphia International Airport Sept. 27 for his return to Rome following a six-day apostolic visit to the U.S. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) See POPE-VOLUNTEERS-FAREWELL Sept. 28, 2015.

This Sunday marks just two weeks since the Holy Father boarded an airplane in Philadelphia and returned to Rome.  Since then, “the cause of life and the family for which [he] came,” has  had a rough go of it: a deadly shooting in Oregon, an execution of a prisoner in Virginia, Congressional hearings on Planned Parenthood, and the legalization of assisted suicide in California.  It seems like high time — already — to remind ourselves of the Holy Father’s message on respect for all human life.

1

 Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, September 23, 2015, St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.

The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.

2

Visit to the Joint Session of the United States Congress, September 24, 2015, Washington, D.C.

Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule alsoreminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

Pope Francis walks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-UN Sept. 25, 2015.

Pope Francis walks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-UN Sept. 25, 2015.

3

Meeting with Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, September 25, 2015, New York City

Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

4

Meeting with Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, September 25, 2015, New York City

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Pope Francis holds the Book of the Gospels during closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

Pope Francis holds the Book of the Gospels during closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-FAMILY-MASS Sept. 27, 2015.

5

Closing Mass of the Eighth World Meeting of Families, Sunday, September 27, 2015, Philadelphia

Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to grow in faith.

Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles. Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them. He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.

So we might ask ourselves, today, here, at the conclusion of this meeting: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies? What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)? We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves. It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family. Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13). May our children find in us models and incentives to communion, not division! May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!

Respect, care, stewardship for all life.  May Our Lord help to live the Holy Father’s prophetic words and to share the joy of this news with our neighbors!

 


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