Archive of September 20, 2013

Faith shines light on truth and reason, archbishop says

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - At a recent talk on Pope Francis' encyclical “Lumen Fidei,” Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore emphasized that faith is not opposed to reason, but rather is necessary for understanding truth.

“This encyclical letter…is a great gift – not only to the Church, but to all people of good will, to everybody seeking the truth,” Archbishop Lori said Sept. 17 at Washington D.C.'s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he spoke as part of the Year of Faith lecture series.

“In a very skeptical world, it turns out that Faith believes in Reason. Faith believes in the capacity of reason for truth,” he reflected.

Archbishop Lori explained that the nature of faith is often misunderstood, seen as superstition rather than “a part of the search for knowledge.”

Faith is commonly considered to be “not a friend of reason, but its enemy; it's thought to be unreasonable, anti-rational.” Because of this misconception, the archbishop said, the Enlightenment placed misplaced trust in the absolute power of reason alone to discover the truth.

When this mindset was not able to withstand the tragedies and atrocities that have occurred in the 20th century, rationalism gave way to skepticism, “abandoning the search to make sense out of human nature and history.”

Without truth, Archbishop Lori said, reason came “to be thought as a dimmer light – something that can help us find our way moment by moment or trend by trend, but not something that can help us find our ultimate way.”

Therefore, the world “fell into confusion” about the nature of humanity, reality, and truth itself.

Faith, the archbishop said, is the “one thing capable of illuminating every aspect of our existence.”

Because of Christ's being both true God and true Man – his being both eternally transcendent and sharing our human nature – Archbishop Lori explained, “faith in Christ really does illuminate every aspect of our humanity, including our sufferings, including our tragedies.”

This link with Christ also “opens us to a love greater than ourselves, a love that can save us, a love that can transform us from within.”

“Through faith, we can love as Jesus loves,” the archbishop continued, and this love “opens our minds to the truth that is greater than ourselves, and our hearts to a love greater than ourselves.”

“Salvation has come to us because God has engaged us: he has engaged our history, he has engaged our humanity,” and thus faith in God “lights up our history, our human nature, body, mind and spirit.”

“'Lumen Fidei' offers a summary of salvation history” beginning with Abraham, and continuing through “the Church to the end of time,” Archbishop Lori observed.

He explained that the Pope “tells us that in accepting the gift of faith, we become God's children, and he says we abandon the effort to save ourselves by our own goodness and our own works,” opening man to “knowledge, and understanding of truth.”

The ability of faith to illumine truth gives light to the search for knowledge in all areas, the archbishop added.

“Faith helps us see that the things that we love in life contain a ray of understanding,” and that understanding can lead to God.

Unfortunately, Archbishop Lori cautioned, today truth is thought to be subjective, and because people misunderstand the nature of truth, many think that objective truth “would stifle creativity in thought.”

However, “faith doesn't lead to any object; faith leads to a truth, a love, which cannot be imposed, but only proposed,” he explained.

“Far from stifling the individual, faith opens the individual to a truth in love,” and this opening can enable all searching for knowledge to be open to the truth, he concluded.

“Faith is not divorced from the world, but rather penetrates the heart of earthly reality, to the heart of the human spirit.”

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Letters, prayer vigils to mark one year in jail for pastor in Iran

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Supporters of human rights and religious freedom around the globe are joining in prayer and a letter-writing campaign on the one-year anniversary of Iranian imprisonment for Christian pastor Saeed Abedini.

 “My wife and children as well as over a billion Christians in the world seek God's justice and then your consideration of this matter,” Abedini – who is a U.S. citizen – wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, who took office last month.

“Please take immediate action in this regard and do not let me and a lot of people in my ward become the victims of the fire that extremists have made, those who have turned Iran into a vortex of crisis.”

He added that “considering the fact that I came to Iran to serve the orphans, please do not let them make my children orphans and my wife without a guardian.”

Sept. 26 will mark the first anniversary of Abedini’s imprisonment in Iran’s Evin Prison on charges of threatening national security. Human rights groups, however, contend that the pastor’s Christian faith is the real reason for his eight-year sentence.

The one-year anniversary will be commemorated with prayer vigils for the pastor’s release, held throughout the world and across the U.S., including in Washington, D.C., and Boise, Idaho, where Abedini lived with his wife and two children before his arrest.

Raised Muslim in Iran, Abedini converted to Christianity in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010 after marrying a U.S. citizen.

After his conversion, he worked with house churches throughout Iran until 2009, when the government raised objections, despite the fact that the churches are technically legal in the country. Since then, human rights groups say that the pastor has worked solely with non-religious orphanages in the country. He was arrested in the fall of 2012 during a visit to one of these orphanages.

While in prison, Abedini has reported suffering beatings and a number of internal and external injuries due to his treatment. He had sought an appeal of his conviction, which was denied, leaving his eight-year sentence in place.

In his letter, the pastor asked Rouhani to act upon promises to promote moderation within the government.

“I hope the person who has sworn to protect the rights of citizens and practice the Constitution, issues the required instructions and orders for reviewing my case” according to Iranian law, Abedini said.

He emphasized that in writing the letter, he was “not politically motivated for claiming these things, but am humanly and religiously motivated because God, whom we regard to own and manage the universe commanded us all – Muslims, Christians and Zoroastrians to seek justice.”

He noted that that “he and other fellow prisoners have been denied minimum legal rights in the detention, interrogation and prosecution processes,” and voiced hope that the government would “amend the unfair rulings of the recent years” for political prisoners.

The letter begins a new campaign for concerned individuals to call on Rouhani urging Abedini’s release. The “Be Heard Project” is organized by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, in the U.S.

The legal center has gathered signatures from more than 623,000 people who are asking for the pastor’s release.

“Every minute, every day Saeed is apart from us is more excruciating than the next,” Naghmeh said in a Sept. 16 statement. “Now, I am faced with the painful realization that our kids are growing up without their father. We are praying for a miracle just to be able to see him again.”

“In a week from now, the president of Iran will be on U.S. soil,” she added, saying that she wondered “whether my government will use this opportunity to appeal directly to President Rouhani for the release of my husband.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has issued two statements on Abedini's situation, asking for his release, though President Obama has not yet spoken on the prisoner’s behalf.

“I hope President Obama will break his deafening silence and speak out for my husband. But I also ask that everyone join me in appealing directly to President Rouhani by writing letters urging him to release Saeed,” Naghmeh asked.

The latest round of appeals for Abedini comes amid reports that Iran chose to free 11 political prisoners Sept. 18. Among them was Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer who was held in Evin Prison along with Abedini.

According to The Guardian, Iran holds nearly 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including lawyers, journalists, feminists, and followers of Christianity, Baha'i, and Sunni Islam.

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Scholars say love for the poor illuminates Pope's first six months

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - In his first six months as Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis has shown his distinct style through a “prophetic” concern for the poor and a continuing outreach to those on the margins of society, say Catholic observers.

Kurt Martens, an associate professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., told CNA that Pope Francis, through his actions, has “gained a lot of credit in secular society, among those who were skeptical towards the Church.”

A study by Pew Research Center, released Sept. 12, found that nearly 80 percent of Catholics in the U.S. hold a favorable view of Pope Francis, while just four percent said they hold an unfavorable view. Support among the general U.S. population was also high, with 58 percent of respondents saying they view the Pope favorably.

A Pew analysis explained that these numbers have remained “largely unchanged” since Pope Francis was elected six months ago, on March 13.

Martens noted that some of this support could be part of a “honeymoon phase,” which may decline as the Pope addresses more controversial topics. However, the scholar also said that non-believers and lapsed Catholics are finding the Pope largely sympathetic.

Among the highlights of the last six months, Martens said, was the Pope’s call for a Sept. 7 prayer vigil for peace in Syria, which drew 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square and prompted thousands of similar local events around the world.

This vigil could foreshadow Vatican diplomacy’s return to the “golden years” of the John Paul II era, which witnessed victory over Soviet communism and the prevention of war between Chile and Argentina, the scholar said.

He suggested that Pope Francis’ public stands, combined with the skill of the Holy See’s new Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, could mean the Vatican will “play an even larger role” in international affairs than it has in the past.

“That would be great if the Holy See could play a renewed role as peacemaker in the world,” he said.
In addition, Martens praised the Pope’s “very strong attention to the poor,” characterizing this visible show of concern for those on the margins of society as “very evangelical and noble.”

He said that Pope Francis’ July 8 visit to refugee centers on the Italian island of Lampedusa was “very prophetic,” given the prevalent indifference to the plight of immigrants. The Pope was “reaching out to those people who were looking for a better future,” the professor said.
Father Daniel Pattee, T.O.R., the theology department chair at Franciscan University of Steubenville, said that the New Evangelization has been a theme in the Pope’s first six months.

“Pope Francis is concerned about so many Catholics becoming neglectful of their faith by soft-peddling its requirements,” he explained. “He has also attempted to light a fire among the hierarchy to what is most important about their shepherding God’s People and he has called upon bishops and priests alike to become men of service.”

Fr. Pattee suggested that Pope Francis’ decision to reside at Casa Santa Maria, rather than in the papal apartments, has helped boost his appeal.

“I think this Pope is reaching people on a daily basis by his decision to live no different from any of the priests throughout the world who serve in parishes,” he stressed. “This venue has given his papacy an accessibility to the day-to-day problems and difficulties that most people face in their lives as they go to work, serve in families, or attempt to minister to others.”

Daily Mass at the papal house makes attendees “feel like we are all in attendance at daily Mass with our parish priest,” he observed.

Looking to the future, Fr. Pattee said that Pope Francis will likely focus much of his papacy on the reform of the Vatican’s administration, the Roman Curia.

According to Martens, an expert on the curia who advises the U.S. bishops on canon law and church governance, this reform could be “most difficult” because it involves changing the mentality within the  Vatican.

Careerism, communications problems and a lack of accountability are continuing problems in the curia, he said.

He noted with concern reports about Monsignor Battista Mario Salvatore Ricca, the newly appointed temporary prelate of the scandal-plagued Vatican Bank. According to Vatican analyst Sandro Magister, certain evidence of the priest’s alleged past homosexual relationship was missing or removed from his personnel file when he was appointed.

Martens described it as “a bit dangerous and a bit disappointing” that “these mistakes are made,” suggesting that the handling of the file deserves additional scrutiny.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said.

Faced with both the immense task of curia reform and the Church’s ongoing call to evangelize, Fr. Pattee said that the Holy Father’s personal witness thorough his actions and simple style of “living, preaching and governing the Church” are key.

Referencing the well-known “Prayer of St. Francis,” he said that the Pope is “more about actions than words, understanding than being understood, loving than being loved."

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Vatican's new Catechism app aims to spread faith worldwide

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - A pontifical council is preparing to launch a new app on the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to help promote and better expand Church teaching throughout the world.

“Catechesis is important for the church first of all because it is the attempt we had from the beginning of our faith to put together the knowledge, the content of our faith, and the coherent witness that we should have,” said Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

The app – which will be released first in Italian and available on mobile phones and tablets –  is important in that it provides “a possibility of using the Catechism in a new way, and to challenge people also to use it,” he said.

Although there is no definite launch date for the Catechism app, it was mentioned in a Sept. 19 press conference that it might be expected within a month.

During an interview with CNA, Archbishop Fisichella reflected on the need for catechesis globally, saying that those who teach the faith play a crucial role, particularly in Africa and Latin America.

He also reflected on the role of women engaged in catechesis, reflecting that in “the majority in our parishes, and with generosity, they work in order to transmit faith to the new generations.”

The archbishop is one of several experts currently present in Rome for the International Congress of Catechists, which will be held Sept. 26-28 to discuss the topic of catechesis throughout the world, and to examine new methods to promote a better means of spreading the gospel, including the new app.

“The congress,” he said, “will attend more than one thousand and six hundred people waiting for a common understanding on catechesis but also in order to dialogue with each other and to check and to verify the different experiences we have in this field and the world.”

Pope Francis will give an audience to those in attendance at the conference, which, according to Archbishop Fisichella, will be especially important for the New Evangelization council.

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Bishop Kettler transferred to Saint Cloud diocese

St. Cloud, Minn., Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis today accepted the resignation of Bishop John Kinney, 76, of the Diocese of Saint Cloud, and appointed as his replacement Bishop Donald Kettler, who until today had led the Fairbanks diocese.

“I am very pleased to be here, to be your bishop, and I hope I can do that task well … it's going to just really be a blessing for me to be here,” Bishop Kettler said Sept. 20 at a press conference introducing him to the people of Saint Cloud.

“Thank you for taking the time to be with me this morning,” he added.

Bishop Kettler's comments were focused on gratitude: he opened saying, “I'm so very pleased to be here; that's the number one and most important thing.”

He reflected that when he was asked 11 years ago by Blessed John Paul II to serve as Bishop of Fairbanks, “I said yes to that request, that invitation. Certainly fearfully, but also with a lot of gratitude.” He has said yes to Pope Francis to move to Saint Cloud again “gratefully, and with some trepidation of course.”

“But I say this because when the Holy Father calls you to this position, this ministry, we believe deeply that the Holy Spirit is actually working behind all of that. And because of that, why should we be afraid  … the Holy Spirit is the one who's going to enable you to do all this work.”

Bishop Kettler said he enjoys being a pastor, “being out, meeting people” and forming relationships. “I like visiting parishes, I like visiting schools, nursing homes, retired people, that's what I've been about.”

Responding to the questions of journalists, Bishop Kettler added that he is impressed by the Saint Cloud diocese and “doesn't want to mess up anything,” but support and encourage initiatives already in the diocese. He mentioned his desire to foster evangelization, vocations, and life issues

Bishop Kettler wants to “get to know people first, and try to fit in where we can.”

Having led the Fairbanks diocese through bankruptcy proceedings in 2008 following sexual abuse claims which dated from the 1950s to early 1980s, he commented that the experience taught him “the value of listening” and hopes that it can help the Church to “become better healers for other things that come,” be it problems with addiction or economic insecurity.

Bishop Kettler said that regarding Minnesota's recent legalization of same-sex marriage, “I stand for and I endorse what the Church has said about same-sex marriage, both in the Catechism and the teaching of the Catholic conference of bishops, but that's not where I begin.”

He cited the importance of “forming relationships” first, before beginning difficult conversations on particular issues.

“I want to be a form-er of relationships,” Bishop Kettler explained.

He explained the importance of first establishing relationships, and that after having done that, conversations about specific moral issues can be developed. He also said it is important to remember that “the Church is for everyone” and that “everybody has a right to the presence of God and the Church for them.”

Bishop Kettler was born in Minneapolis in 1944, and grew up attending Catholic schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He then entered Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, and later studied at Saint John's University in Collegeville – both of which are located in the Saint Cloud diocese.

He was ordained a priest in 1970, and served at several parishes and as director of Sioux Falls' diocesan chancery and as judicial vicar. He obtained a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in 1983.

Bishop Kettler was consecrated as Bishop of Fairbanks in 2002, and served there 11 years until his appointment today. His Mass of installation will occur Nov. 7.

He takes over the governance of the Saint Cloud diocese from Bishop Kinney, who had led the diocese since 1995. The diocese covers over 12,000 square miles, and 24 percent of its population of 562,000 are Catholic.

Since Bishop Kettler's appointment renders the Diocese of Fairbanks vacant, Pope Francis also appointed Archbishop Roger Schwietz of Anchorage to be Fairbanks' apostolic administrator.

In addition, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Anthony Burgess of Wewak, in Papua New Guinea, who had turned 75 in July.

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Interviewer: Pope’s adherence to Church abortion teaching is clear

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis is “absolutely clear” about Catholic teaching on abortion, but his first focus is to bring God’s salvation to everyone, “most of all sinners,” says the Jesuit priest whose lengthy papal interview was published yesterday.

“The message of the Church is a message of mercy,” said Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., who is editor in chief of the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica and who conducted the wide-ranging interview which has already garnered international attention.

“When he talked about these kind of topics, he said (that) what the Church has to spread is the message of the Gospel. This is the first one, the message of salvation. This message can reach anyone, most of all sinners. This is a different vision,” Fr. Spadaro told CNA Sept. 20.

He added that “what the Pope has in mind, in my opinion, was just to explain what the Gospel is. I got so many messages from people from outside the Church who said ‘I am very deeply moved now by the Gospel. I need to read the Gospel.’ This is the big effect, this is what the Pope had in mind.”

Pope Francis, in his interview published Sept. 19, said a sole insistence on issues related to abortion and other moral issues is not possible. This would not be the fullness of the Gospel, but rather a “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

Fr. Spadaro said Pope Francis was not saying “something against anyone.”

“I don’t have to interpret the Pope. The words are there. It’s absolutely clear. He said, 'I am a son of the Church.'”

At the same time, Fr. Spadaro resisted applying the “pro-life” 'label' to the Roman Pontiff.

“These kind of categories, the Pope is pro-this thing, or against this other thing, are categories that don’t work anymore. This is very important for me. Progressive / conservative, pro / against, these categories don’t work anymore.”

Asked where those who are concerned for the protection of life in all its stages should go for guidance in a pontificate where these issues are not as explicit, Fr. Spadaro replied: “ask the Pope.”

He emphasized that Pope Francis is trying to communicate “a message of tenderness.”

“This is the attitude of the Church: to be able to stay with people who are bound in soul and body. We have to live in the frontiers. This is what the Pope cares about. It doesn’t matter if you are very far from the Church or if you are not living as the Church says. The important thing is that the Church can reach you where you are, exactly in that place. That is just a starting point. You can grow up in the faith.”

“The Church is for people who need the message of salvation: this is the Gospel.”

Many media outlets have depicted the Pope’s comments on abortion as a major shift in tone from his predecessors. The U.S. pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America shared on its Facebook page a message, “Dear Pope Francis, Thank You. Signed, Pro-Choice Women Everywhere.”

However, this Pope has been far from silent on abortion.

On May 12, Pope Francis greeted attendees of the Italian March for Life. Before praying the Angelus that day, he invited everyone to “stay focused on the important issue of respect for human life, from the moment of conception.”

And he lamented abortion as part of a “throwaway culture” in his remarks today to Catholic gynecologists participating in a gathering of the International Association of Catholic Doctors.

“Every child who is not born, but is condemned unjustly to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord.”

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Pontifical Council discusses future of marriage, family

Rome, Italy, Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - This week the Pontifical Council for the Family is holding a conference to discuss how to recover the true meaning of the family in the context of a growing process of deconstructionism and confusion.

“The family is still regarded almost universally as a good,” said Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Sept. 19, while adding that in secular society “there are still all the pieces of marriage, but not the whole building anymore.”

“Marriage has not been destroyed by a bomb, but it has been deconstructed, so that we recognize the pieces but we cannot recognize the building any more.“

The contemporary challenge, he said, “is to speak about the truth of marriage to non-believers by presenting to them the anthropological truth and value of family in a language that makes it possible for there to be a consensus to save the family.”

The conference, held at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, runs Sept. 19-21 and is themed “The rights of the family and the challenges of the contemporary world.” It will include exhibitions as well as keynote addresses and contributions from renowned journalists in roundtable discussions.

The conference commemorates the 30th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II's Letter on the Rights of the Family. It is also hosted by the Association of Catholic Jurists, and is being financed by Priests for Life.

Yesterday afternoon Vatican media advisor Greg Burke led a roundtable discussion featuring the director of CNA, Alejandro Bermudez; the director of the Italian SIR news agency, Paolo Bustaffa; Australian journalist Angela Shanahan; and professor of social communications Jean-Baptiste Sourou.
Among the topics that will be discussed in group sessions include the role of women in and for the family; work, family and economic challenges; procreation and the challenges of biotechnology; and the family in the experience of immigration.

Other speakers at the event include the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Bishop Jean Laffitte, who will give an address on pluralism, the emotional life and lifestyles; Carmen Dominguez, who will speak on freedom in education; and the secretary general of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations of Europe, Maria Hildingsson, who will speak about the family from the perspective of international politics.

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Pope Francis asks doctors to spread the Gospel of Life

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Speaking to a group of gynecologists and obstetricians at the Vatican, Pope Francis affirmed that all human life has dignity and rejected the discarding of “defenseless” human persons through abortion.

“Every unborn child, although unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s face,” Pope Francis said, adding that like Christ, these aborted children experience the rejection of the world.

The Holy Father asked doctors “who are called to take care of human life in its initial phase” to remind people that “in all its phases and at any age, human life is always sacred.”
“This is a commitment to the new evangelization that often requires going against the current,” he added in his Sept. 20 address. “The Lord counts on you to spread the ‘Gospel of Life.’”
The comments come one day after the publication of an extensive interview with Pope Francis, conducted by the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica and translated into English by U.S. Jesuit magazine America.

In the interview, the Pope called Christians to proclaim moral truths in the context of the Gospel and Jesus Christ rather than as “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. Rather, “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” allowing moral issues to flow from the proclamation of the Gospel.
Several commenters and media outlets interpreted the Pope’s remarks as a shift in Church teaching on moral issues. However, the Holy Father – who has spoken out against abortion several times during his papacy – also explained in the interview that the “teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church.”
Speaking today before a meeting sponsored by the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Physicians, Pope Francis emphasized the doctor’s role in protecting and promoting all life, which, from the unborn to the elderly, “carries the face of Christ.”

“In the fragile human being each of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced the indifference and loneliness that often condemn the poorest” members of society, he said.

The Pope lamented the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which now enslaves the hearts and minds of many,” and “requires the elimination human beings, especially if they are physically or socially weaker.”
“Our response to this mentality is a firm and unhesitating ‘yes’ to life,” he emphasized.
The Holy Father noted that the defense of life in all stages “has become in recent years a real priority of the Magisterium of the Church,” especially with regard to the “most defenseless,” the unborn, elderly and sick. 

He noted that, paradoxically, in medicine today, “the health professions are sometimes induced to disregard life itself” while at the same time trying to care for patients.
“The paradoxical situation can be seen in the fact that while the person is given new rights, sometimes only presumed rights, life as a primary value and basic right of every man is not always protected,” he said.
But despite the culture’s denial, the “final objective of doctor is always the defense and promotion of life,” Pope Francis affirmed.
Doctors must not discard life, which is at the center of social development, he emphasized. The intrinsic dignity of the human person is beyond any measurable worth, and no human life is “more sacred” or “more significant” than another.

With this understanding of the human person, he challenged the doctors present to “be witnesses and speakers of this ‘culture of life,’” helping the contemporary culture to recognize “the transcendent dimension” of human life from “the moment of conception.”

The Pope encouraged doctors to pray for “the strength to do your job well and to witness with courage.”

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