Pope Francis to Catholic doctors: “Bear witness to the culture of life”

“Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ”

Today Pope Francis met with members of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and discussed the particular challenges facing those in the medical profession with regard to safeguarding all human life.

I haven’t seen an English translation of the entire speech yet; the Italian can be read here. One passage that hasn’t been translated in full in either of the Vatican press office reports on the speech (here and here) has to do with protecting life in two of its most vulnerable stages: the unborn and the elderly. Rorate Caeli posted this translation of that paragraph:

Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us also speak of the elderly, another point! And each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste” proposes! They cannot be discarded!

Below is the Vatican News Service summary of the Holy Father’s remarks:

Today the Pope met with members of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Catholic gynaecologists, and spoke of the current paradoxical situation of the medical profession. “On the one hand we see progress in the field of medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who passionately and unreservedly dedicate themselves to the search for new cures. On the other hand, however, we also encounter the risk that doctors lose sight of their identity in the service of life”. He referred to the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate to explain that this paradoxical situation is seen also in the fact that, “while new rights are attributed to or indeed almost presumed by the individual, life is not always protected as the primary value and the primordial right of every human being. The ultimate aim of medicine remains the defence and promotion of life”. Faced with this contradictory situation, the Pope renewed the Church’s appeal to the conscience of all healthcare professionals and volunteers, especially gynaecologists. “Yours is a singular vocation and mission, which necessitates study, conscience and humanity”, he said.

Again, Francis spoke of the “throwaway culture” that leads to the elimination of human beings, especially those who are physically and socially weakest. “Our response to this mentality is a ‘yes’ to life, decisive and without hesitation. The first right of the human person is his life. He has other goods and some are precious, but this one is fundamental – the condition for all the others”.

Reiterating that in recent times, human life in its entirety has become a priority for the Magisterium of the Church, the Pope emphasised that “goods have a price and can be sold, but people have dignity, they are worth more than goods and have no price”.

Francis asked those present to “bear witness to and disseminate this ‘culture of life’ … remind all, through actions and words, that in all its phases and at any age, life is always sacred and always of quality. And not as a matter of faith, but of reason and science! There is no human life more sacred than another, just as there exists no human life qualitatively more meaningful than another”.

 

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Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.