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January 31, 1993

Put life at the centre of your concern


There was a festive atmosphere in St Peter's Square as some 2,000 children from Rome's Catholic Action youth branch gathered for the Angelus on Sunday, 31 January, to conclude their month-long study of peace and the Pope's Peace Day message. Their representatives greeted the Pope in his study and helped him release two white doves from the window; the Pope in turn told them how much he would like to join their movement, but did not see how he could at his age. The whole atmosphere, however, was a fitting conclusion for the Pope's Angelus meditation on the themes of leprosy and human life. The Pope spoke in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Throughout the whole world today is World Day of Lepers. Many years have passed since the prophetic voice of Raoul Follereau denounced the inhuman neglect accorded the lepers, and during those years increased attention has been given them and much has been done to cure them. However, it is still scandalous that a disease such as this one, terrible as it is, continues to claim victims for the mere reason that they are not given adequate care. How much suffering, dear brothers and sisters, would be avoided or mitigated if selfishness decreased and solidarity increased. The purpose of today's commemoration is not only to appeal for the essential material and spiritual support for those who are stricken by this terrible disease, but also to arouse public opinion about the tragic conditions of poverty and injustice in which a large part of humanity still live. Most of all, it is necessary to overcome indifference, the true leprosy of the spirit.

It is necessary at all levels to become promoters and builders of an authentic culture of hope which defends and cares for human life.

2. "Begin with respect for life to renew society", is precisely the theme of the World Day of Life which will be celebrated next Sunday when I shall be making a Pastoral Visit to some countries of the beloved African continent where the sense of nature, life and family is so very strong.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like the problem of life, so intimately connected with that of the family, to be placed at the centre of everyone's concern. As the Italian Bishops so opportunely emphasized in their message for this event, it is necessary for all people of good will to "unite and involve the social and civil structures in order to create the conditions for a more widespread and demanding morality. The first task will be to lay the foundations of a new family policy".

What is so very surprising, especially in economically advanced countries, is the ease with which an obvious contradiction is accepted: on the one hand, there is a praiseworthy increase of interest in the defence of nature and the care of human life with the help of more advanced technologies; on the other hand, a large part of public opinion and the legislation of many States do not recognize the right to life of the newly-conceived human being.

Human life is an indivisible good: it is a miracle to rediscover with ever renewed wonder; it is a sacred, intangible gift of God, to be welcomed with gratitude.

3. May Mary, the Virgin Mother of the Word of God made man, help us to overcome the present misleading ideological opposition regarding this very decisive theme so that the recognition of the dignity of human life, from conception to its natural end, may become the common point of departure for building a word of solidarity and a future of peace.

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