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Message from Pope to Irish Church for Day for Life

By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 October, 2015

2014-04-10 Archbishop Martin and Pope FrancisPope Francis has sent a special message to the people of Ireland to mark the celebration of ‘Day for Life’ today.

Day for Life is celebrated each year by the Church in Ireland, Scotland, and in England & Wales, and is dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage, and in every condition.

The theme for this year is Cherishing Life, Accepting Death.

The Pope’s message to the Irish faithful was conveyed through the Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown.

In his message, the Pontiff sends his “prayerful good wishes” for the Day for Life.

He recalls the life and teachings of St Francis of Assisi, which show so beautifully how all life is the gift of God, who is “the protector, our guardian and defender” (Laudes Dei altissimi).

“Let us imitate God in protecting, guarding and defending all human life, in particular, the weakest and most vulnerable: the sick, the old, the unborn, the poor and the marginalized,” the Pope urges.

The Holy Father also prays that this Day dedicated to life in Ireland will lead to a renewed recognition that the right to life is the foundation of integral human development and the measure of a truly compassionate society.

Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly of Cashel & Emly has welcomed this special message from the Pope saying, “A defining theme of the ministry of Pope Francis is his wish for society to redouble its efforts to support people on the margins, as these are the most vulnerable.”

Installation of Archbishop Kieran O'Reilly at teh Cathedral of the Assumption Thurles. PIc: John McElroy.

Pic: John McElroy.

He continued, “This theme is not just motivated by a sociological concern, it also applies to vulnerable stages of the human life cycle, especially to the unborn child and to care of our elderly.”

“Today, as we celebrate our Day for Life message Cherishing Life, Accepting Death, we are honoured that the Holy Father has expressed his prayerful support to us here in Ireland as we highlight the importance of loving life at all times, and to accept the inevitability of death.”

Archbishop O’Reilly made his comments ahead of being formally invested with the pallium in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles, at 12.00 noon Mass today.

Pope Francis blessed and presented the pallium to Archbishop Kieran privately after concelebrated Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul on 29 June last.

Today’s formal investiture is being presided over by His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and takes place in the presence of bishops and representatives from the seven dioceses in the ecclesiastical province of Cashel & Emly.

The pallium is a white woolen strip, worn around the Archbishop’s neck, which symbolises the bond between an archbishop and the Pope.

The wearing of the pallium dates back to the fourth century. It predates the mitre and the crozier as episcopal symbols.

The bishops’ Day for Life pastoral message will be read at Masses across the country today.

The text of the pastoral is available in English and in the Irish and Polish languages on www.catholicbishops.ie.

  • Text of Day for Life pastoral message for 4 October 2015: Cherishing Life, Accepting Death

“How great a lie … to make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!” – Pope Francis

Kathleen, a much-loved grandmother, collapsed at home one Saturday morning and was rushed to hospital.  Early signs pointed towards a stroke.  The doctors talked about the next twenty-four hours being critical; it seemed like Kathleen might not even survive.  The priest was called and Kathleen received the anointing of the sick.  Doctors were talking about brain damage and whether interventions might be possible.  Suddenly the family was faced with big questions.  What would Kathleen have wanted and how could the Church help guide any decisions?  How do we accept death when it comes and cherish life while we can?

There have been remarkable medical and technological advances so that the chronically ill can receive life-saving treatments. We can be truly thankful for such advances. And yet at some time or other we will all die. These same advances have led to more complex decision-making about appropriate treatment for those who are gravely ill.

At the end of life, there are two thoughts that can help guide us all.

The first is that we love life. Every person is loved by God and every life is a precious gift never to be destroyed or neglected. It is wrong to hasten or bring about death. God will call us in his own good time.

The second is that we accept death. This means there is no obligation to pursue medical treatment when it no longer serves its purpose – that is when treatment is having no effect or indeed harming the patient.

We need to prepare to face life-threatening crises. Ideally these difficult and important decisions need to be faced with others – our spouse, our siblings, our extended family members.  The family, after all, should be the privileged place where mutual support and understanding occurs.

Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made and the views of family and experts should be taken into account.  In such situations these two basic questions can guide our decisions:

–          is this decision loving life?

–          is this decision accepting the inevitability of death?

Depending on the situation we should seek ways to answer yes to both, as life itself is a gift from God, and death but the gateway to new life with Him.

  • About end of life care, and Day for Life

If you wish to explore the invitation to ‘Cherish Life and Accept death’ in greater depth, please read End of Life Care: Ethical and Pastoral Issues which was published by Bishops’ Committee for Bioethics in 2002.  It can be accessed at http://www.catholicbishops.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/End-of-Life-Care-Ethical-and-Pastoral-Issues-2002.pdf.  A special web feature on Day for Life 2015 Cherishing Life, Accepting Death is now available and includes:

–          reflections from Pope Francis on care for the elderly and on cherishing life

–          an interview with Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick

–          video resources on cherishing life and accepting death

–          Day for Life prayers and reflections

–          principles from Catholic teaching on end of life decisions

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