.- Pope John Paul II issued a rare personal message this week to Australia's Catholic lawyers’ association, urging them to defend the "inviolable dignity and rights of every human being - from conception until natural death," reported the Sidney Morning Herald.
The Pope’s message to the St. Thomas More Society came as it celebrated its 60th anniversary at St. Mary’s Cathedral with a “Red Mass”, traditionally held to mark the start of the legal year.
The Pope gave the society his blessing and underlined the role it has to play in shaping public policy and promoting justice.
The mass was celebrated in the presence of three cardinals and before some of the state's most senior judges, barristers and solicitors, reported the Herald. The society counts the High Court Chief Justice, Murray Gleeson, and the former governor-general, William Deane, among its members.
The St. Thomas More Society has quietly lobbied for changes to the country’s abortion laws, opposed euthanasia, argued for the legal protection to fetuses and urged the government maintain its ban of embryonic stem-cell research.
The society has also advised on the Catholic Church's formal protocol for dealing with sexual abuse claims.
The society has 500 members, who are mostly but not exclusively Catholics.