Saturday, September 08, 2007

We must Create a Society Where Children are Again Seen as a Gift for All, Rather than a Burden or Illness

Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI
Meeting with Austrian Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps

Vienna, Hofburg
Friday, 7 September 2007

The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself. This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -– it is the very opposite. It is “a deep wound in society,” as the late Cardinal Franz K├Ânig never tired of repeating.

In stating this, we are not expressing a specifically ecclesial concern. Rather, we are acting as advocates for a profoundly human need, speaking out on behalf of those unborn children who have no voice. I do not close my eyes to the difficulties and the conflicts which many women are experiencing, and I realize that the credibility of what we say also depends on what the Church herself is doing to help women in trouble.

I appeal, then, to political leaders not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness, nor to abolish in practice your legal system’s acknowledgment that abortion is wrong. I say this out of a concern for humanity. But that is only one side of this disturbing problem.

The other is the need to do everything possible to make European countries once again open to welcoming children. Encourage young married couple to establish new families and to become mothers and fathers! You will not only assist them, but you will benefit society as a whole. We also decisively support you in your political efforts to favour conditions enabling young couples to raise children. Yet all this will be pointless, unless we can succeed in creating once again in our countries a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all.

Another great concern of mine is the debate on what has been termed “actively assisted death.” It is to be feared that at some point the gravely ill or elderly will be subjected to tacit or even explicit pressure to request death or to administer it to themselves. The proper response to end-of-life suffering is loving care and accompaniment on the journey towards death –- especially with the help of palliative care –- and not “actively assisted death.”

But if humane accompaniment on the journey towards death is to prevail, urgent structural reforms are needed in every area of the social and healthcare system, as well as organized structures of palliative care. Concrete steps would also have to be taken: in the psychological and pastoral accompaniment of the seriously ill and dying, their family members, and physicians and healthcare personnel. In this field the hospice movement has done wonders.

The totality of these tasks, however, cannot be delegated to it alone. Many other people need to be prepared or encouraged in their willingness to spare neither time nor expense in loving care for the gravely ill and dying.

Finally, another part of the European heritage is a tradition of thought which considers as essential a substantial correspondence between faith, truth and reason. Here the issue is clearly whether or not reason stands at the beginning and foundation of all things. The issue is whether reality originates by chance and necessity, and thus whether reason is merely a chance by-product of the irrational and, in an ocean of irrationality, it too, in the end, is meaningless, or whether instead the underlying conviction of Christian faith remains true: In principio erat Verbum – in the beginning was the Word; at the origin of everything is the creative reason of God who decided to make himself known to us human beings. . . .

Upon you and all the people of Austria, especially the elderly and infirm, as well as the young whose lives lie ahead of them, I invoke hope, confidence, joy and God’s blessings!

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