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Papal audience from March 25.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.
Twenty-five years ago today, on this very date, March 25, when the Church marks the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, St. John Paul II promulgated the encyclical letter “Evangelium Vitae,” on the value and inviolability of human life.
The bond between the Annunciation and the “Gospel of Life” is close and profound, as St. John Paul emphasized in his encyclical letter. Today we find ourselves reviving this teaching within the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the world economy. It is a situation that makes the words with which the encyclical begins ever more demanding. Here they are: “The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture” (No. 1).
As with every proclamation of the Gospel, this too should firstly be witnessed. And I think with gratitude of the silent witness of many people who, in various ways, are doing everything they can in serving the sick, the elderly and those who are alone and most destitute. They put into practice the Gospel of Life, like Mary who, having accepted the angel’s announcement, went to help her cousin Elizabeth who was in need.
Indeed, the life that we are called to promote and defend is not an abstract concept, but rather it is always manifested in a person in flesh and blood: a baby who has just been conceived, a marginalized poor person, a sick person who is disheartened or in a terminal ill state, one who has lost their job or cannot find one, a rejected or marginalized migrant…. Life manifests itself tangibly in people.
Each human being is called by God to enjoy the fullness of life; and, is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church, every threat to human dignity and life cannot but have an effect on her heart, on her maternal ‘womb.’ To defend life is not an ideology for the Church. It is a reality; a human reality which involves all Christians, precisely because they are Christian and because they are human.
Unfortunately, attacks against people’s dignity and life still continue in our epoch, which is the age of universal human rights. Indeed, we are facing new threats and new forms of slavery, and laws do not always protect the weakest and most vulnerable human lives.
The message of the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” is thus more current than ever. Aside from the emergencies like the one we are experiencing now, it is a case of taking action on the cultural and educational level in order to transmit to future generations, the attitude of solidarity, care and welcome, in the full knowledge that the culture of life is not the exclusive heritage of Christians, but rather belongs to all those who, working to build fraternal relationships, recognize the value of each person, even when they are fragile and suffering.
Dear brothers and sisters, every human life, unique and unrepeatable, has value in and of itself; it is of inestimable value. This must always be proclaimed anew with the courage of the Word and the courage of actions. It calls us to solidarity and fraternal love for the great human family and for each of its members.
Thus, with St. John Paul II, who wrote this encyclical letter, I reaffirm with renewed conviction the appeal he addressed to everyone 25 years ago: “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” (“Evangelium Vitae,” No. 5).
— Pope Francis
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