|Type||Journal Article - Proceendings of Sixth Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life|
|Title||«Evangelium vitae» five years of confrontation with the society|
The concurrence of the Jubilee Year and the 5th Anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical
"Evangelium vitae" characterized the work of the 5th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for
Life. There is a reciprocity between the two events: on the one hand, the Jubilee brings with it an
appeal for conversion and a renewal of social life in relation to respect for the image of God that is
innate in each human person; on the other, the themes of the Encyclical "Evangelium vitae" prompt an
examination of conscience on a wide range of issues of social morality.
Hence the choice of the theme for the General Assembly: "Evangelium vitae": 5 years ofconfrontation
The aim was to conduct a review of the social and legal situation with regard to the legislation in force
in the various countries or in process of being reformed throughout the world in terms of respect for
life, five years after the publication of "Evangelium vitae".
Five years are very few to be able to gauge the results of a document of the magnitude of "Evangelium
vitae", which the Holy Father himself compared with Leo XIII's "Rerum Novarum". But the
Assembly's reflection was not intended to be a final balance sheet, but rather an aid to the Church's
pastoral service, which cannot fail to take account of the current legislative situation and socio-political
problems, as well as a means of evaluating the objectives and methods of its action.
We believe that the picture that emerges from the various reports and communications presented during
the General Assembly is important, thanks to the high level of the contributions and those who brought
experience, competence and detailed knowledge to bear on them.Their contributions, moreover, are a
powerful incentive, pledging to future action the members of Assembly, of whom many were present
(some 120), also due to its coincidence with the Jubilee event.
The reports had been prepared through a joint consultation process, conducted prior to the Assembly,
on two preparatory days on 13-14 September 1999, according to the method of the Task-Force and
other procedures by now well-consolidated in the research of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The reports regarding the continents of Asia and Africa have especially enriched our knowledge of a
situation that was in part better known in Europe. The series of contributions, distinguished by
countries and contents, was opened by a wide-ranging review by the Most Reverend Msgr. J. L. Tauran
on "The defense of life in the context of international policies and norms". His report provides, perhaps
for the first time, an overall picture of the specific theme of respect for life at the legislative and social
Incorporated within the meetingreserved for the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life was an
official commemoration of "Evangelium vitae": the centre of our attention, like the apse of a basilica
that draws the believer's contemplative gaze as the central point richest in light and closest to heaven.
And this commemoration was open to a wider public, since it was organized by the three offices of the
Holy See most directly concerned: the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for
Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
The issues covered by the Encyclical were then reviewed, and its cultural, ethical and anthropological
importance was evaluated, in the valuable reports of Card. A. López Trujillo, the Most Reverend Msgr.
J. Lozano Barragán and Prof. R. Spaemann.
The General Assembly, as we mentioned, was not just academic in aim: it was aimed not just at
reconstructing the facts or identifying the problems, but at inspiring future action. A first problematic,
indeed dramatic, issue to emerge is in the legislative field. It concerns the position of the Catholic
legislator-or more generally of the faithful in his/her moral dedication to the defence of the right to lifein
relation to the drafting or amendment of laws, when the laws in question-as is often the case-are 5
unjust and, even if improved, remain imperfect. From this point of view, the report, both authoritative
and enriching, of the Most Reverend Msgr. T. Bertone: "Catholics and Pluralist Society: 'Imperfect
Laws' and the responsibility of legislators" provides guidance for and helps to elucidate the political
commitment and Christian conscience of legislators in conformity with the doctrine of the Church.
The communications that represent the final part of the volume, despite their brevity andsummary
character, enriched the debate with references to specific issues and enlivened it with their various
Not only the Direction of the Academy but the readers of this volume of the Proceedings must, I
believe, express due thanks to all those who have contributed to the work of this Assembly, whether in
the form of the light of doctrine or the stimulus of action. We would especially like to express our
gratitude to the Holy Father, whose spoke in the Synod Hall at the end of the Celebration of the 5th
Anniversary of his Encyclical. His address was widely commented on by the press of every persuasion
in the days that followed. It set a doctrinal seal on this teaching on the value and inviolability of human
life which he has taken particularly to heart. John Paul II has tackled the most challenging and delicate
issues of the defence of life and the dignity of human procreation, as pointed out in the report dedicated
to the contribution of the pontificate of John Paul II by the Most Reverend Msgr. A. Laun with the
title: "John Paul II: Pope of life and Pope of responsible parents".
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