Following the October General Meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the following joint statement was issued yesterday to mark the Day for Life 2007. The theme for the Day for Life this year, as chosen by the Bishops' Conferences of Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, is: "Blessed is the fruit of your womb". "Blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk. 1.42). With these words of Elizabeth to Mary comes the particular revelation by God and the recognition by us that human life is sacred, from the moment of conception to that of natural death, that it is given by God and that it is taken back again by Him. The Christian principle of respect for human life at every stage of its existence is firm, clear and continuous. The 'Gospel of Life' tells us that human life is called to an eternal fullness which infinitely surpasses the expectations of our hearts (cf John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), 2. It gives meaning and direction to life and it is the foundation on which the entire teaching of the Church is based. In 1975 the Irish bishops published a pastoral letter, Human Life is Sacred. They wrote: "God alone is the Lord of life. We belong to God and God's commandment "Thou shalt not kill" unconditionally forbids all taking of innocent human life from its beginning in the womb until the end that God, not man, has set for it" (Human Life is Sacred Irish Episcopal Conference, 1975, page 6). Pope John Paul II consistently called for the creation of what he termed "a culture of life and a civilisation of love" in society today. On this, the Day for Life for 2007 we, the Irish Bishops, renew that call. We do so in the face of so much violence and death in our society at present. Almost daily, in the media and on the streets, we are faced with murder, suicide, calls for the liberalisation of our laws to accommodate abortion and, occasionally, for the provision of legislation to enable euthanasia. We have, we fear, a crisis in our culture with regard to the age old appreciation that human life is sacred. Our country has been blessed by economic success in recent years. With this has come an increasing experience of secularisation and coinciding with this has come a decrease in the awareness of the importance of moral values. In 1975 the Bishops noted that when faith in God declines the sense of the value of human life suffers and the fear of taking human life declines (cf Human Life is Sacred, page 26). Thirty years ago, following the publication of their letter, the Irish Bishops established CURA as the practical expression of their belief in the sacredness of human life. On this the Day for Life 2007 we, the Catholic bishops of Ireland, thank everyone associated with the work of CURA during the past thirty years, and especially its volunteers. Through their selfless and dedicated service countless women have received support from CURA which is truly Christlike. During all these years CURA has provided a safe, secure space for those who experience a crisis in their pregnancy. "CURA cares" has become its slogan. And its claim to care is based on the fact that it cares for both the woman and her unborn child. From the Christian point of view, compassion in crisis pregnancy counselling cares for both the mother and her unborn child. You cannot have a true Christian compassion if the right to life of the unborn child is not recognised as an absolute. Reflecting on this recently, our colleagues in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said: "True commitment to women's rights puts us in solidarity with women and their unborn children. It does not pit one against the other but calls us to advocate on behalf of both. As our conference has argued, a far more compassionate response is to provide support and services for pregnant women, advance their educational and economic standing in society, and resist all forms of violence and stigmatization against women"(Origins. Vol 37. n.13. p194.). The Catholic Church provides these services to many women around the world. It does so here in Ireland and it will continue to do so. But "Cura Cares" is not just a slogan; it is a course of action. CURA can justly claim that it has consistently offered compassionate and practical care to pregnant women and to their unborn children. It is an organisation that has sought to value and respect the life of mother and child, each of whom is an image of God and a sister or brother of Christ. We are determined that it will continue to do so without in any way compromising the faith and the principles that have motivated it from the beginning. Please see www.catholiccommunications.ie for the Day for Life 2007 pastoral letter in English, Irish and Polish.
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