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June 28, 1984


Abortion, euthanasia, genetic manipulations are grave dangers of deviation for the doctor


After celebrating Mass at Gemelli Hospital on Thursday, 28 June, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pope John Paul II met with the various members of the Faculty of Medicine of the Sacred Heart University in the Faculty's auditorium and addressed them as follows:

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

1. As I entered this auditorium of the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University, I had a feeling of joyful gratitude: there came to my mind the words that my predecessor Benedict XV said to Father Gemelli and Mons. Olgiati when they were about to present to him the plan for the foundation of the first seat of tile Catholic University in Milan: "Do something magnificent worthy of the name Catholic" This university seat is really magnificent and worthy of the Church!

From this place, where the most solemn and qualified moments of academic life are lived and congresses are held for scientists coming here from Italy and abroad, there rises to the Lord the gratitude of the Pope and of the Church, a gratitude that expands with the memory of so many great and exemplary souls who have gone before us into the Kingdom of the heavenly Father: Father Agostino Gemelli, Armida Barelli, Francesco Vito, Gian Carlo Brasca, personalities who have given ideas, have poured out their energies, have dedicated their lives and have raised to God vibrant prayers for this centre.

My thanks and my greeting are extended to the Rector - and I thank him also for his courteous words addressed to me - to the Dean, to the professors and students here present, and to the graduates spread throughout Italy and the world. But my thoughts include also all the silent and active servants, the simple souls of the employees and workers; the priests, who exercise their ministry of grace and carry out the mandate to form young consciences. To everyone I express my sentiments of affectionate and grateful appreciation.

2. Father Gemelli, whom we recall today on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, in explaining to Italian Catholics the reason for founding this Faculty of Medicine, stated that it was not so much and not only a question of giving to future doctors an orientation of thought, that is, of making them doctors, as it was of making them Christian doctors. And he, added that there was a need for doctors who, having a mind educated in the observance of the norms of the Gospel, would see in the sick person a brother or sister to be helped.

Father Gemelli had well sensed the priority and distinguishing purpose of this Faculty, the educational purpose.

The medical profession today is suffering fundamentally from an identity crisis: there is the grave danger that this profession, born and developed as a commitment of service to suffering man, can become deviated by ideologies and used to the detriment of human life. Where the medical profession is called upon to suppress conceived life; where it is used to eliminate the dying; where it allows itself to be led to intervene against the plan of the Creator in the life of the family or to be taken by the temptation to the manipulation of human life, and when it loses sight of its authentic direction of purpose toward the person who is most unfortunate and most sick, it loses its ethos, it becomes sick in its turn, it loses and obscures its own dignity and moral autonomy.

3. It was necessary at that time, and is even more necessary today, to have a school where all the components work harmoniously toward the achievement of the educational purpose, which is to maintain and enrich in the medical profession the ethical dimension and the Christian view of man. Research, teaching, witness and the educational environment, all these can fortunately converge in a university institution in order to foster a tradition and a "school" that can offer to eager young people an educational wealth that is not otherwise attainable. Students who are believers and teachers who are aware of their faith and their educational can be found in every other similar civil institution, but it is precisely these persons, who live out the experience and the Christian witness in the diaspora of the secularized world, who expect from a providential institution such as this a line, a thought, and a point of reference.

After the passing of twenty years and after the structures for research, teaching and assistance have been further developed, an even greater commitment is necessary in safeguarding and ever better promoting the moral and Christian identity of the Faculty willed by Father Gemelli. From the very beginning, your Faculty has had the advantage of institutionalized courses in theology and ethics, gradually expanded and harmonized with multi-disciplinary research, in relation with the ever new and serious appeals coming from the world of science and society. It is therefore extremely important that the ethical dimension and Christian witness penetrate the whole educational climate and the whole university environment, so that this community, which Father Gemelli wanted to be limited with a specified number of students, might become an educational ambience in harmony with the ecclesial spirit and with the attitude of service which your Founder handed down to you as his spiritual testament and the fulfillment of what would be called his life's "dream"; that is, that it might become an environment of authentic Christian faith!

I would like to recall here the words that my predecessor Paul VI addressed to the professors and students of the whole Catholic University of the Sacred Heart on the occasion of the pilgrimage of 5 April 1964: "Faith is blessedness! Not astounding illusion, not mythical fiction, not surreptitious consolation; but authentic happiness. The happiness of truth...the happiness of fullness, the happiness of the divine life, made possible for some marvellous human participation. Not mortification of thought, not a hindrance to scientific research, not useless weight for the slenderness of the modern spiritual style; but light, but voice, but discovery that broadens the mind and makes life and the world understandable; happiness of supreme knowledge; once again, the happiness of knowing the truth'' (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, II, 1964, pp. 231 f.).

4. Beloved teachers and administrators, to you especially the Church entrusts this educational, demanding and exalting duty, and she entrusts it to you anxiously, with sincerity and with confidence: the young students, future doctors, and those who have already graduated, look to you as to masters of scientific knowledge, experts in the art and in the profession of medicine but also, and above all, they look to you as masters of life and moral commitment. This witness and this educational commitment require continued fraternal contact with your collaborators and the students, they require dedication of time and energy, sacrifice of personal interests, perhaps even legitimate ones. But you will be repaid by the joy of seeing the blossoming of a generation of professionals suited for the times and the needs of mankind awaiting their service.

When I reflect on the number of your graduates - there are already 2,412, working in Italy and abroad and even in mission countries - when I think of the number and the qualification of the teachers and administrative personnel that daily people this community and make it productive of good, I think of that gift which Father Gemelli and my predecessor have given to Italy, to Rome and to the Church; I think of how much enlightenment and help can come to the ecclesial community and to civil society with the formation of doctors, nurses, degreed persons in the medical professions!

I want to recall also, among other organisms, the Centre for Study and Research on the Problems of Human Fertility and the Advisory Bureau dedicated to the formation of family counsellors: from all the schools of preparation and specialization and from these centres there can come to society and to the Church an immense thrust of good and witness which is, and will always be, the true glory of this providential institution.

Dear young students, I have come to bring you the comfort and the encouragement of the Church; above all, I have come to proclaim with you faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, the Redeemer of man and the centre of history. Do not neglect the light of faith; put it in first place in your mind; meditate on it every day and quench your thirst at the purest source of the Church's teaching which, along with the Eucharist that is celebrated at various times every day in your church, will be the propelling centre and the vigorous heart of your community, which has sprung from Christ's love from which the Founders drew, and open to the love of man and the most suffering and needy brothers and sisters.

5. The future of this Faculty, for whose existence and expansion those positions of responsibility meet so many difficulties of the material order, will depend on a threefold harmony: the harmony of your life and your educational intentions with the teaching of Christ and the Church; the harmony of your Faculty with the life and the problems of the Church of Rome and of Italy; the harmony within university life between the persons and components of this community. A substantiated harmony of truth, of loyal and sincere collaboration and of mutual help.

Certainly the scientific task and the active responsibilities are immense, long-lasting and almost harassing. The Faculty must respond to the commitments of research, teaching, updating, culture, medical assistance. But all of this needs a soul and a clear orientation: the polar star for daily work can be found only in the Word of God and in the teaching of the Church. And for this contact with the Word of Christ and the Church to be constant and enduring, it is necessary to strengthen and enliven the bond with the ecclesial community: with the Church of Rome that hosts you and needs your thought and your contribution; with the Italian Church, which doubtlessly will continue to appreciate and to support ever better this university and this Faculty which already has given it so many services; with the universal Church, rich in humanity and laden with the problems of all men.

It is the very nature of the research of university teaching that requires harmony and multiform collaboration, but it is still more the need to form an educational environment for an expression of high moral tension that demands true and fraternal collaboration. It will be this harmony that will make young people experience the joy of being in a family and in an ecclesial community which - with the help of the teachers, of those in positions of responsibility, of the priests - will continue and intensify the formative work of the parishes and the dioceses from which they have been sent. It will be this harmony that will allow the attainment of the institution's goals and the fulfillment of the multiple responsibilities of service; it will be this harmony, enriched by ecclesial life, that will give the witness that today is ever more greatly expected from all the expressions and works of the Catholic world.

With these sentiments I repeat the suppliant prayer recited on the inauguration day of the first academic year by my venerated predecessor John XXIII while he entrusted this community to Mary, Seat of Wisdom, expressing himself in the words carved in the marble walls of your central church: "Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Wisdom, Health of the Sick, of heavenly Patroness, Most Powerful Helper, turn your merciful eyes toward this house that is yours and protect it with Your motherly aid".

May my Blessing accompany you always!

Teachings of the Magisterium on Abortion

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