Cardinal Parolin to EU bishops: Protect life from conception to natural death

28376472279 53dc43c114 k Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, pictured Jan. 1, 2012. | Mazur/

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has encouraged bishops in Europe to evaluate legislative proposals in light of the transcendent dignity of every human person, and to protect life from conception until natural death.

"The recognition of the sacred and inviolable dignity of every human life from conception until its natural end is of particular importance, and to this should be linked the defense and promotion of the family, the true cell of society, founded on the stable union of a man and a woman," Cardinal Parolin said in his address to the plenary assembly of European bishops.

"A Europe that is a friend to each and all is first and foremost a Europe that loves the person in his truth and in his entirety, and above all respects his transcendent dignity," he said.

Parolin spoke to the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) via livestream Oct. 28. He said that Europe today needed to return to some of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching that were "at the heart of the European Project."

"These principles can help people interpret and evaluate proposed laws as they are being worked out, and at the same time offer valuable orientations to people with political responsibilities," the cardinal said.

"We see a particularly clear example of it in legislation on protection of personal data which, while useful, presupposes a conception of the human person as the almost absolute holder of rights understood individualistically," Parolin said. 

"The prevailing concept of person here, as in other more worrying recent developments in state legislation like, for example, those linked to euthanasia or those which put marriage on the same level as other types of unions, is a solitary or monadic one, detached from the idea of belonging to a community, composed of a plurality of subjects who do, indeed, have rights, but also duties."

The cardinal had originally planned to travel to the Belgian capital, Brussels, Oct. 28-30, for the COMECE Plenary Assembly and to meet with European Union authorities, but he ultimately canceled the trip because of new restrictions seeking to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Vatican released a letter from Pope Francis to the European bishops on Oct. 27 in which the pope warned the continent's leaders that the project of European unity was at risk unless they "rediscover the path of fraternity" that inspired the project's founders.

"We can either continue to pursue the path we have taken in the past decade, yielding to the temptation to autonomy and thus to ever greater misunderstanding, disagreement and conflict, or we can rediscover the path of fraternity that inspired and guided the founders of modern Europe, beginning precisely with Robert Schuman," Pope Francis wrote.

The Argentine pope explained in the letter that he wanted to share his reflections on the future of Europe, a continent that he said was "so dear to me," not only because of his family's Italian roots, but also because of Europe's "central role … in the history of humanity."

Cardinal Parolin underlined this message, adding that "the Church's closeness to Europe has become even more intense with Pope Francis, the first non-European pope in more than a thousand years."

"The period we are living through is, therefore, a chance not to be missed for building a more just and inclusive Europe," he said. 

Parolin highlighted some priorities that the European bishops could promote in their work with the EU and other European institutions. Among them, he mentioned Europe's Green Deal project, the Next Generation EU recovery fund, and a review of the Dublin Convention on refugees and migrants.

"I think the warning Pope Francis left us three years ago stands: as  Christians, we are called to be 'the soul of Europe,'" he said. "Through the intercession of the Holy Patrons of Europe, let us ask the Lord to help us really be that, in order to offer our contribution to the construction of this continent in which is found the See of Peter and which is so important for the Church and the whole world."

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