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Excerpts of October 5, 1979 Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America

On the Pope's last day in Chicago, 5 October 1979 he met the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of the United States at Quigley, South Seminary, and delivered the following address.

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1.May I tell you very simply how grateful I am to you for your invitation to come to the United States. It is an immense joy for me to make this pastoral visit, and in particular, to be here with you today.

On this occasion I thank you, not only for your invitation, not only for everything you have done to prepare for my visit, but also for your partnership in the Gospel from the time of my election as Pope. I thank you for your service to God's holy people, for your fidelity to Christ our Lord, and for your unity with my predecessors and with me in the Church and in the College of Bishops.

Relevance of God's Word

6. In the exercise of your ministry of truth, as Bishops of the United States you have, through statements and pastoral letters, collectively offered the word of God to your people, showing its relevance to daily life, pointing to the power it has to uplift and heal, and at the same time upholding its inherent demands. Three years ago you did this in a very special way through your Pastoral Letter so beautifully entitled "To Live in Christ Jesus". This Letter, in which you offered your people the service of truth, contains a number of points to which I wish to allude today. With compassion, understanding and love, you transmitted a message that is linked to Revelation and to the mystery of faith. And so with great pastoral charity you spoke of God's love, of humanity and of sin and of the meaning of Redemption and of life in Christ. You spoke of the word of Christ as it affects individuals, the family the community and nations. You spoke of justice and peace, of charity, of truth and friendship. And you spoke of some special questions affecting the moral life of Christians: the moral life in both its individual and social aspects.

Right to Life of the Unborn

You also gave witness to the truth, thereby serving all humanity when, echoing the teaching of the Council "From the moment of conception life must be guarded with the greatest care" (Gaudium et Spes, 51), you reaffirmed the right to life and the inviolability of every human life including the life of unborn children. You clearly said: "To destroy these innocent unborn children is an unspeakable crime. Their right to life must be recognized and fully protected by law."

And just as you defended the unborn in the truth of their being so also you clearly spoke up for the aged, asserting: "Euthanasia or mercy killing is a grave moral evil Such killing is incompatible with respect for human dignity and the reverence for life".

And in your pastoral interest for your people in all their needs including housing, education health care, employment, and the administration of justice, you gave further witness to the fact that all aspects of human life are sacred. You were, in effect, proclaiming that the Church will never abandon man nor his temporal needs as she leads humanity to salvation and eternal life. And because the Church's greatest act of fidelity to humanity and her "fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man's gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity toward the mystery of God" (Redemptor Hominis, 10), because of this you rightly alluded to the dimension of eternal life. It is indeed in this proclamation of eternal life that we hold up a great motive of hope for our people against the onslaughts of materialism, against rampant secularism and against moral permissiveness.

Priests for Life
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