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Proclaim and uphold the rights to life and health


March 18, 1988


On Friday, 18 March the Holy Father received in audience a group of lay collaborators of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, and addressed them as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1, I am very pleased to meet you, collaborators of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God, gathered in Rome to represent forty thousand health care workers from twenty countries at your meeting on the theme: a different way of being neighbors to the sick and the needy.

I thank you sincerely for this visit, which brings to my mind the serious problems of illness and pain which are the object of the greatest interest and attention on the part of the Church, but also the commitment and dedication which you bring to the relief of suffering as doctors, nurses, technicians, administrators and assistants.

In particular I thank Brother Pier Luigi Marchesi, Prior General of the St. John of God Brothers, for his words of introduction to this informal meeting. To all I express my affection and grateful appreciation.

2. I hope that Your Roman meeting may be useful, not only for getting to know each other, but also for God and the teaching of the Church; she, enlightened by Christian revelation, has never ceased to proclaim and uphold the sacrosanct rights to life and health proper to every person. On this subject, the Old Testament expresses itself definitively: "From man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has man been made" (Gen 9:5-6).

This respect for human life is clearly restated in the New Testament, with new emphases but with no less commitment. To the rich young man who asked what were the principal commandments necessary to enter into life, Jesus replied by indicating the first duty as "Thou shalt not kill" (Mt 19:18).

Faithful to this biblical tradition, the Church always has made every effort through the centuries to defend human life. The Second Vatican Council warned: "The Lord of life has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves" (Gaudium et Spes, 51).

Dear friends, in reaffirming these Christian principles, I am happy to know that the work which you carry out is inspired by these noble ideals. I hope that your meetings will serve to enlighten further and strengthen your responsibilities towards the mystery of life, which you are called to defend against every threat.

May the difficulties which you will certainly encounter not discourage you. See to it that life flourishes in every person; in so far as you can, give back the smile and the joy of living to those entrusted to your care.

May the assurance of my prayer for you support you in your efforts; I reinforce this prayer with my blessing, which I now give to you and those dear to you.

Priests for Life
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