Library of the Apostolic Palace
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Twenty-five years ago, on this same date of March 25, which in the Church is the solemn feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, St. John Paul II promulgated the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, on the value and inviolability of human life.
The link between the Annunciation and the "Gospel of life" is close and profound, as St. John Paul stressed in his Encyclical. Today, we find ourselves relaunching this teaching in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life and the world economy. A situation that makes the words with which the Encyclical begins even more demanding. Here they are: "The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Welcomed by the Church every day with love, it must be announced with courageous fidelity as good news to men of all ages and cultures" (n. 1).
Like any Gospel announcement, this too must be first of all witnessed. And I think with gratitude to the silent testimony of many people who, in different ways, are doing their utmost to serve the sick, the elderly, those who are lonely and most destitute. They put the Gospel of life into practice, like Mary who, having accepted the angel's announcement, went to help her cousin Elizabeth who needed it.
In fact, the life we are called to promote and defend is not an abstract concept, but always manifests itself in a person in flesh and blood: a newly conceived child, a poor marginalized person, a lonely and discouraged patient or in a terminal state, one who has lost his job or is unable to find it, a refused or ghettoized migrant ... Life manifests itself in people.
Every human being is called by God to enjoy the fullness of life; and being entrusted to the maternal concern of the Church, every threat to dignity and human life cannot fail to affect its heart, in its maternal "bowels". The defense of life for the Church is not an ideology, it is a reality, a human reality that involves all Christians, precisely because they are Christians and because they are human.
The attacks on the dignity and life of people unfortunately continue even in our era, which is the era of universal human rights; on the contrary, we are faced with new threats and new slavery, and legislation is not always to protect the weakest and most vulnerable human life.
The message of the Encyclical Evangelium vitae is therefore more relevant than ever. Beyond emergencies, such as the one we are experiencing, it is a question of acting on a cultural and educational level to transmit to future generations the attitude of solidarity, care, hospitality, knowing full well that the culture of life is not an exclusive heritage Christians, but belongs to all those who, striving for the construction of fraternal relationships, recognize the value of each person, even when he is fragile and suffering.
Dear brothers and sisters, every human life, unique and unrepeatable, is valid for itself, constitutes an invaluable value. This must always be announced again, with the courage of the word and the courage of the actions. This calls for solidarity and fraternal love for the great human family and for each of its members.
Therefore, with St. John Paul II, who made this encyclical, with him I reaffirm with renewed conviction the appeal he made to all twenty-five years ago: "Respect, defend, love and serve life, every life, every human life ! Only on this path will you find justice, development, freedom, peace and happiness! " (Enc. Evangelium vitae, 5).
Soon, at noon, we Pastors of the various Christian communities, together with the faithful of the various confessions, will gather spiritually to invoke God with the prayer of the Our Father. We join our voices of supplication to the Lord in these days of suffering, while the world is severely tried by the pandemic. May the Father, good and merciful, grant the concordant prayer of his children who with confident hope turn to his omnipotence.
I also renew my invitation to participate spiritually, through the media, at the moment of prayer that I will preside over the day after tomorrow, at 18h00, in the churchyard of St. Peter's Basilica. Listening to the Word of God and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Urbi et Orbi Blessing will follow, with the plenary indulgence attached.
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I cordially greet you, the Italian-speaking faithful. I encourage you to always be confident in the mercy of God and generous with your neighbor, especially in these times of uncertainty.
I address a special thought to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Today, solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, I entrust everyone to the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She, who said that "yes" in Nazareth, help you every day to say your "yes" to the Lord, who calls you to welcome him and to follow him in all the concrete situations in which you find yourself living. God bless you.
FULL TEXT + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation