On Saturday, the Holy Father received 300 participants in an international congress entitled: "Oil on the wounds. A response to the blight of abortion and divorce". In his address of the two topics, he stated that though abortion and divorce are separate decisions, they both “leave wounds that mark life indelibly.”
At the event, which was promoted by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, Pope Benedict stated that the effects of individualism and hedonism have left the world without adequate social support. This leads people to make, “decisions that contrast with the indissolubility of the conjugal bond and with the respect due to human life freshly conceived and still guarded in the maternal womb."
The Pope continued by explaining the impact of divorce and abortion on the human person. “The Church's ethical judgment concerning abortion and divorce is clear and well-known to everyone: they are grave sins which - in various ways and with due evaluation of subjective responsibilities - injure the dignity of the human person, involve a profound injustice in human and social relationships, and offend God Himself, the guarantor of the marital bond and the architect of life."
Those who have struggled with divorce or abortion are still loved by the Church, the Pope explained. “The Church has the primary duty to approach these people with love and delicacy, with kindness and maternal concern, in order to announce the merciful closeness of God and Jesus Christ. ... Yes, the gospel of love and of life is also always the gospel of mercy" and, "on the basis of this mercy, the Church cultivates an indomitable faith in mankind and its capacity for recovery.”
The Church realizes that “with the help of grace, human freedom is capable of the definitive and faithful giving of self which makes it possible for the marriage of a man and a woman to be an indissoluble bond," just as she knows that "human freedom, even in the most difficult circumstances, is capable of extraordinary gestures of sacrifice and solidarity to accept the life of a new human being."
The Pope added that often the actions that the Church prohibits—divorce and abortion—are also the things on which the public often fixes its attention as negative, but they “are in fact so many 'yeses' to the dignity of human beings, their lives and their capacity to love."
The Holy Father emphasized the impacts of divorce and abortion on society. Speaking first about the consequences of divorce, he emphasized its negative impact on children. Pastors and parishes should concentrate on ensuring "that children do not become the innocent victims of conflicts between divorcing parents,” the Pope recommended.
Speaking of the effects of abortion, Benedict XVI stated, "How much selfish complicity often lies at the roots of a difficult decision that so many women have had to face alone and of which they still have the open wound in their soul!" Then, quoting John Paul II in his Encyclical "Evangelium vitae", he continued, "Do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. ... The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation."
In conclusion, Benedict XVI expressed his appreciation for those working with “social and pastoral initiatives which seek the reconciliation and cure of people affected by the drama of abortion and divorce". These programs are, "essential elements in building the civilization of love of which humanity today has more need than ever.”