Pope Francis has sent a special message (see below) to the people of Ireland to mark the celebration of ‘Day for Life’ Sunday today. Day for Life is celebrated each year by the Catholic 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. Printed copies of the bishops’ Day for Life pastoral message Cherishing Life, Accepting Death will be read at Masses across the country today. The text of the pastoral is available in English (see below), and in the Irish and Polish languages on www.catholicbishops.ie.
Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, 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. 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.”
· Message from Pope Francis to the Irish people for Day for Life Sunday 4 October 2015: Cherishing Life, Accepting Death
The Holy Father Francis sends prayerful good wishes on the occasion of the Day for Life in Ireland. His Holiness recalls the life and teachings of Saint 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 Holy Father 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 Charles John Brown
Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland
· 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
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678