PHILADELPHIA – As part of the World Meeting of Families, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a coalition of pro-life leaders will host a Pro-Life International Symposium at 6 p.m. tonight – Wednesday, Sept. 23 – in the Grand Ballroom of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The symposium is free and open to the general public, as well as World Meeting attendees.
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, a co-sponsor of the event, answers questions about the event and its place on the World Meeting of Families schedule.
Q. Why is it important to have a symposium on abortion at the World Meeting of Families?
Father Pavone: As we used to say when I worked at the Pontifical Council for the Family and as we organized the World Meeting of Families back in 1997, "There can be no life without family and there can be no family without life."
The connection between the theme of family and the theme of protecting life is inseparable. The family is "the sanctuary of life," and, in fact, Pope St. John Paul II indicated in "The Gospel of Life" that the fact that abortion is committed by one family member upon another is one of the things that makes it particularly serious.
The theme of this World Meeting of Families is, "Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." The symposium will emphasize that the family can be fully alive only if all its members are protected, including the children in the womb.
Moreover, the family can be fully alive only if it is healed of the wounds of abortion, which is more destructive of family life and relationships than anything else. For these reasons, a symposium on abortion is not only important, but essential, especially given the fact that many in society and in the Church want to ignore the abortion issue.
- How did this conference come about?
Father Pavone: Over a year ago, I asked some 70 leaders in the pro-life movement to sign a letter that we sent to Pope Francis, to the Pontifical Council for the Family, and to Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, expressing our support for the World Meeting of Families. In response, the planning committee of the World Meeting of Families, with the support of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, gave us this Wednesday night time slot to hold an International Pro-life Symposium.
Then, many of the leaders signed on to another letter inviting people to come to it.
- The people who are attending the World Meeting are, for the most part, devout Catholics. Do you worry you will be preaching to the choir?
Father Pavone: It is precisely because so many of the participants are part of "the choir" that we need to speak to them about this. The choir always needs choir practice. The troops always need encouragement, and there is much encouraging news to report in the battle against abortion. Our symposium will be a celebration of life and family for those already committed to defending them, rather than an event aimed to convert those who are not already convinced.
- What are you hoping people will take away from the symposium?
Father Pavone: There are still some pro-life activists who ask me whether Pope Francis sees fighting abortion as a priority for the Church. My hope is that this symposium will reassure them that nothing has changed, either in the mind of the Pope or the Church, regarding the urgent priority of protecting the most vulnerable children. In fact, protecting the poor, weak, vulnerable and marginalized is precisely at the heart of the spirituality and priorities of Pope Francis.
Moreover, I want the participants of this symposium to be encouraged in their own involvement in the pro-life movement, and to find in the symposium some new tools and strategies to implement, and some new relationships with other pro-life activists from other parts of the country and the world.
- Are babies and children welcome?
Father Pavone: I suspect there will be few places in the world where, on that night, babies and children will be more welcome than in our Pro-life Symposium!
Priests for Life is the nation's largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit www.priestsforlife.org.