By Francesca Merlo
March 25 marks both the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the 25th anniversary of Evangelium vitae. Pope Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical, also known as the ‘Gospel of Life’, is dedicated to the value and inviolability of human life.
The Gospel of Life
During his catechesis at the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis stressed the connection between the Annunciation and the “Gospel of Life”. Today, we must explain this “in the context of a pandemic that threatens human life”, making the Encyclical’s opening words “feel even more challenging”, he said. The opening words read as follows:
The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as "good news" to the people of every age and culture.
As in every other Gospel proclamation, this must be ‘witnessed’, first of all, said the Pope. The Pope expressed his gratitude to all those who are “putting into practice the Gospel of Life” as they bear witness doing their best to help the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the destitute, he said.
Promoting and defending life
This is the life we are called to promote and defend, explained the Pope. It is not an “abstract concept”, but is “manifest through the person, in the flesh”.
…A newly conceived child, a poor outcast, a lonely and discouraged sick person, someone who has lost their job or can't find one, a rejected or marginalised migrant...
God calls “each person to live the fullness of life” said the Pope. Unfortunately attacks on the human person persist even in this age, “the age of universal human rights”, he added. We face new threats, and laws do not always protect the weakest and most vulnerable.
The relevance of Evangelium vitae
For this reason, “the message of Evangelium vitae is more relevant than before”, continued Pope Francis. It goes far beyond the emergencies we are currently facing, he said.
It is a matter of acting on a cultural and educational level in order to transmit an attitude of solidarity, caring and welcome to future generations, knowing that the culture of life is not the exclusive patrimony of Christians. It belongs to all those who, working to build fraternal relationships, recognise the value of each individual person, even when he or she is fragile and suffering.
Every human life is unique
Pope Francis confirmed that “every human life….is of unique value”, and we must always proclaim this with “the courage of words and the courage of action”.
The Pope concluded repeating Saint John Paul II’s appeal of 25 years ago: “Respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, at every moment and in every condition of that person's life". (Enc. Evangelium vitae, 5).