VATICAN CITY — Speaking to a group of gynecologists at the Vatican, Pope Francis affirmed that all human life has dignity and rejected the discarding of “defenseless” human persons through abortion.
“Every unborn child, although unjustly condemned to be aborted, has the face of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s face,” Pope Francis said, adding that, like Christ, these aborted children experience the rejection of the world.
The Holy Father asked doctors, “who are called to take care of human life in its initial phase,” to remind people that, “in all its phases and at any age, human life is always sacred.”
“This is a commitment to the New Evangelization that often requires going against the current,” he added in his Sept. 20 address. “The Lord counts on you to spread the ‘gospel of life.’”
The comments come one day after the publication of an extensive interview with Pope Francis, conducted by the Jesuit-run Italian newspaper La Civiltà Cattolica and translated into English by the U.S. Jesuit magazine America.
In the interview, the Pope called Christians to proclaim moral truths in the context of the Gospel and Jesus Christ, rather than as “disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. Rather, “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” allowing moral issues to flow from the proclamation of the Gospel.
Several commenters and media outlets interpreted the Pope’s remarks as a shift in Church teaching on moral issues. However, the Holy Father — who has spoken out against abortion several times during his papacy — also explained in the interview that the “teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear, and I am a son of the Church.”
Speaking today at a meeting sponsored by the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Physicians, Pope Francis emphasized the doctors’ role in protecting and promoting all life, which, from the unborn to the elderly, “carries the face of Christ.”
“In the fragile human being, each of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced the indifference and loneliness that often condemn the poorest” members of society, he said.
The Pope lamented the “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture,’ which now enslaves the hearts and minds of many,” and “requires the elimination human beings, especially if they are physically or socially weaker.”
“Our response to this mentality is a firm and unhesitating ‘Yes’ to life,” he emphasized.
Priority of the Church’s Magisterium
The Holy Father noted that the defense of life in all stages “has become, in recent years, a real priority of the magisterium of the Church,” especially with regard to the “most defenseless,” the unborn, elderly and sick.
He noted that, paradoxically, in medicine today, “the health professions are sometimes induced to disregard life itself,” while at the same time trying to care for patients.
“The paradoxical situation can be seen in the fact that, while the person is given new rights, sometimes only presumed rights, life as a primary value and basic right of every man is not always protected,” he said.
But despite the culture’s denial, the “final objective of a doctor is always the defense and promotion of life,” Pope Francis affirmed.
Doctors must not discard life, which is at the center of social development, he emphasized. The intrinsic dignity of the human person is beyond any measurable worth, and no human life is “more sacred” or “more significant” than another.
With this understanding of the human person, he challenged the doctors present to “be witnesses and speakers of this ‘culture of life,’” helping the contemporary culture to recognize “the transcendent dimension” of human life from “the moment of conception.”
The Pope encouraged doctors to pray for “the strength to do your job well and to witness with courage.”