The bishops said the legislation has been inappropriately labeled as a compassionate response to terminal illness. They pointed to Pope Francis, who has characterized euthanasia as a feature of a "throw-away culture."
"Francis calls us to follow Christ by accompanying people with compassion, sharing hope not fear. In Victoria, we have entered a moment in which we are called to join this task," they said.
"We object to the unnecessary taking of a human life; we object to the diminishment of the love that can be given and received in the last days of our loved ones; we object to the lack of adequate funding for excellent palliative care; we object to state-sponsored practices that facilitate suicide; and most of all we object to the lazy idea that the best response our community can offer a person in acute suffering is to end their life."
The bishops said that Catholics should accompany those dying, providing them with love and friendship until the last moment of their life. They encouraged Victoria's Christian community to engage the law with prayer and dialogue.
"We are called to engage with our Victorian communities with friendship and wisdom, not motivated by fear," they said. "We will not abandon those we love, and we believe they have a right to be loved from the beginning to the end of their life."
They pointed to the examples of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, who bore witness to the value of the human person "despite great personal cost."
The bishops also applauded the efforts of Catholic hospitals.
"Catholic hospitals and Catholic residential care organisations have shown great courage. They have united to find ways to model excellent care for their patients, and are committed to resisting calls to involve themselves in VAD," they said.
"Please learn about their thoughtful and considered response to VAD, which is framed through their enduring commitment to excellence in end of life care, and show them your support."
Victoria Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, of the Australian Labor Party, expects the number of persons seeking assisted suicide or euthanasia to be low initially, and increase in later years.
"We anticipate that once the scheme has been in place for some time, we'll see between 100 and 150 patients access this scheme every year," Mikakos told the ABC.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
"In the first year, we do expect the number to be quite modest - maybe only as low as a dozen people," she added.
According to The Australian, pro-life supporters held a vigil outside Parliament House in Melbourne June 18.
Denise Cameron, president of Pro-life Victoria, said the law is still widely opposed by those in the medical field.
"The Andrews government has set in motion a regime which will legitimise suicide for our most vulnerable community members, devalue palliative care and pressure doctors into abandoning their medical ethic of first do no harm," she said.
While the bill was being considered in 2017, Bishop Peter Stasiuk of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saints Peter and Paul of Melbourne said support of euthanasia and assisted suicide is "motivated by a false sense of compassion." He wrote in a pastoral letter that "Endorsing suicide as a solution to pain or suffering sends the wrong message, especially to the young. Suicide is a tragedy for the person who takes their own life, but it also seriously affects their family and community. It would be morally corrupt to legally endorse any form of suicide."
The assisted suicide and euthanasia law has been opposed not only by Catholics, but by leaders of the Greek and Coptic Orthodox Churches, as well as Anglicans and Lutherans.