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Law must defend life, sacredness of Sunday

June 15, 1990



On 15 June the Holy Father received the judges of the provincial court of appeals from the Austrian Stryian region in Graz. After welcoming them to Rome and the Vatican, the Pope spoke briefly to the judges about their role in society, particularly regarding the legal protection of life and the observance of the Lord's Day.

Your professional position and role in regard to society's responsibility make you constantly more and more aware how crucial it is today for the laity to be conscious of their specific task in public life. In the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici I therefore also emphasized that "for the lay faithful, to be present and active in the world is not only an anthropological and sociological reality, but in a specific way, a theological and ecclesiological reality as well. In fact, in their situation in the world God manifests his plan and communicates to them their particular vocation" (n. 15).

In your profession it is your constant task to help secure the rights regarding the sacrosanct dignity of the human person. "The dignity of the person is the most precious possession of an individual. As a result, the value of one person transcends all the material world" (Christilideles Laici, n. 37). Thus the human person cannot be considered or treated as an object, and that holds true from the very beginning of his or her existence.

Therefore protection of unborn life must be understood from this anthropological and philosophical point of departure. It is not only a question of theology or a matter for the Church. In reality, it is a painful contradiction that in a period when people are standing up so much for the protection of the weaker and oppressed, this protection is denied to those who are precisely least capable of protecting themselves. The Austrian bishops, moreover, indicated this in their recently published pastoral letter on social concerns, along with the emerging social questions, which will certainly be of great concern to you, distinguished members of the provincial court of appeals, in your future work.

Today's social upheavals are in no way limited to labor and capital. Many more entirely new problems have emerged, which require an urgent solution. In this category are the various forms of "new poverty" with all their implications, marginalization, the growing number of categories of the elderly, as well as problems concerning nature and the environment.

A further concern is presented by the preservation and restoration of Sunday, which is increasingly threatened by both business and the recreation industry. This should be seen not only from a religious perspective, but also as a universal cultural value. Our society is running the risk of not appreciating this cultural value because of material considerations.

Following the breakdown of the Marxist-Leninist ideology, Europe's spiritual and cultural renewal is of fundamental importance for the entire continent. Legislation and the administration of justice have a decisive contribution to make in laying the foundations for allowing the value system which has been formed by Christianity to be seen as capable of bearing the load.

In order that you may courageously and confidently fulfill your noble task as well as the legal expectations which society will place on you in the future, I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Priests for Life
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