Letter on the Sanctity of Life
Final Letter of Terence Cardinal Cooke
Cardinal Cooke, whose cause for canonization continues to
move forward, died on October 6, 1983. In the course of his illness, he wrote
the following letter to the people of the Archdiocese of New York, to be read
the weekend of October 8-9. It is a letter on the sanctity of the gift of life.
October 9, 1983
Dear Friends in Christ:
How often we speak of " the gift of life," God's "gift of life" to us, His sons
and daughters. What a beautiful phrase! How filled with meaning it is! In the
Book of Genesis, we read of the origin of this gift: "So God created man in His
own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
It is at times when life is threatened - such as times of serious illness - that
the Lord gives us a special grace to appreciate "the gift of life" more deeply
as an irreplaceable blessing which only God can give from conception until death
and at every moment between, it is the Lord Our God Who gives us life, and we,
who are His creatures, should cry out with joy and thanksgiving for this
We are made in God's image and likeness, and this fact gives a unique dimension
to "the gift of life." We have even more reason to be grateful. It is tragic
that in our time, concepts which are disastrous to the well-being of God's human
family--abortion, euthanasia and infanticide--are falsely presented as useful
and even respectable solutions to human family and social problems. Human life
is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted,
unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria.
From the depths of my being, I urge you to reflect on this anti-life,
anti-child, anti-human view of life and to oppose with all your strength the
deadly technologies of life-destruction which daily result in the planned death
of the innocent and the helpless. Together we must search for ways to
demonstrate this conviction in our daily lives and in our public institutions.
In doing so, we must never be discouraged or give up. Too much is at stake -
"the gift of life" itself.
The "gift of life," God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is
accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical
handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra
splendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and
through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power
of His love.
For the last ten years, I have served as Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for
Pro-Life Activities in the United States. With God's help, I have tried to
encourage and promote a Respect Life attitude throughout our nation. I have
pleaded with you to pray and to be active in the many efforts for the
enhancement and the protection of human life at every stage of existence.
In October, as we observe Respect Life Month, I call on you to rededicate your
efforts for the sanctity of all human life and to work to counteract the
contemporary threats to life. I urge you to increase and to strengthen the
programs in our parishes and communities for the poor, the elderly, the
handicapped, the rejected, the homeless, the suffering, the unwanted, the
unborn. I ask you to focus attention again on the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life
activities and on the three elements of education, pastoral care and public
policy which are necessary if we are to work for and defend the most defenseless
members of society.
At this grace-filled time of my life, as I experience suffering in union with
Jesus Our Lord and Redeemer, I offer gratitude to Almighty God for giving me the
opportunity to continue my apostolate on behalf of life. I thank each one of
you, my sisters and brothers in the Archdiocese of New York and throughout our
nation, for what you have done and will do on behalf of human life. May we never
yield to indifference or claim helplessness when innocent human life is
threatened or when human rights are denied.
With you, I entrust our efforts to the care of Our Lady who, from the moment of
her Immaculate Conception to the present, has been the refuge for the poorest
and most forgotten among God's people. I assure you of a special share in the
prayerful offerings of my sufferings to the Father, in union with Jesus and
through the Spirit of Love Who is ours in abundance.
May God bless you always and give you His peace.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Terence Cardinal Cooke
Archbishop of New York
P.S. Please read this letter at all the Masses on Sunday, October 9th,
including the anticipated Mass on Saturday, October 8th.
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