SUNDAY ANGELUS MEDITATION
December 19, 1993
Dignity of person begins at conception
Before the prayer of the Angelus on Sunday, 19 December, the Holy Father said
to the faithful in St Peter's Square "in human conception one is not witnessing
a purely biological fact, but the moment from which a man comes into existence".
Here is a translation of the Pope's reflection, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. A few days before Christmas the liturgy sets before us again the
well-known, evocative dialogue of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel
unfolded the mystery of the Incarnation before Mary's eyes: "Behold, you will
conceive in your womb, and bear a Son and you shall name him Jesus" (Lk 1:31).
In the Virgin's womb, the Son of God becomes man. From the very moment of
conception, the eternal ego of the Word, always in dialogue with the
Father through the ineffable trinitarian communion, makes his own the
human nature that took flesh within his Mother's immaculate body. It is this
profound unity of humanity and divinity in the person of the Word that enables
the Church to give Mary the title of Theotókos: Mother of God. Mary truly
is, as the angel described her, "full of grace".
2. The Son of God's conception in her womb is certainly a unique,
unrepeatable event, but indirectly it also sheds light on the dignity of man, of
every human being, from the very moment he is conceived in his mother's
As we prepare to celebrate the Year of the Family, which begins next
Sunday, 26 December, the Feast of the Holy Family, I wish to pause and reflect
on the grandeur of this mystery. In the conception of a human being one does not
witness a mere biological fact, but the moment from which a man comes into
existence. In fact, science demonstrates that in the fruit of conception "from
the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being
will be: a man, this individual man with his characteristic aspects already well
determined" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on
Procured Abortion, n. 13: AAS 66 , p. 738). From this embryonic
existence to full physical and spiritual maturity, there is a continuous organic
development. This evident orientation of the embryo towards its future makes it
impossible for it to be treated as mere biological matter, since, in God's plan
for man, the precise biological "individuality" received in the maternal womb is
also welcomed by the omnipotent love of God who intervenes to endow it with an
immortal soul. Indeed, this soul, as the principle of the person, is immediately
created by God (cf. Pius XII Humani generis, DS 3896). As a result,
surrounded by the warmth of his mother's womb and by God's creative love, the
human being, although extremely fragile, should be paid the respect due to
every human person.
3. Holy Virgin, you experienced the sublime mystery of motherhood as no
other woman in the world. While faith enabled you to welcome the Lord's Word,
your body made itself a fertile place for his incarnation.
O Mother, accompany us toward an ever deeper perception of the dignity of
every human being. Grant a clear awareness of it especially to the men and women
called to the lofty vocation of parenthood, so that they may always be
"sanctuaries of life" through the miracle of giving birth, entrusted by God to
the authenticity of their faithful love and watchful responsibility.
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion