MANAGUA, Nicaragua, MAR. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- On Sunday, more than 20,000 Nicaraguans gathered in the Denis Martínez National Stadium here to commemorate the National Day of the Unborn Child. Here is the text of the speech given for the event by Archbishop Renato Martino, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
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Mr. President and Mrs. Aleman,
Your Eminences and Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, allow me to express my profound gratitude for being invited to participate in this important celebration, which the President of Nicaragua has initiated in declaring today the Day of the Unborn Child. I know that I convey the sentiments of everyone here today when I express our gratitude to the President and the First Lady for their steadfast commitment for the defense of life. I also express my gratitude to His Eminence Cardinal Miguel Obando, the Archbishop of this Diocese, for inviting me to be present here for this singular civil and ecclesial event.
As you know, this date has special significance for Christians throughout the world. Although this year, liturgically, it´s not celebrated, today it´s the day the Church commemorates the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel went to Mary and told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Upon receiving this news, Mary immediately knew that her life would now be different, and she accepted the awesome responsibility, the challenge, and the joy of being a mother.
Declaring this day as the Day of the Unborn Child, an act which was also done two years ago by Dr. Carlos Saul Menem, then the President of Argentina, gives the world tremendous hope, and I will tell you why.
First of all, it reminds us that religious values are not limited to personal morality and religion. The founding principle of society is the dignity and worth of every individual. Religious values include recognition of a social morality that flow from this belief. Catholic social doctrine is based on two truths about the human person: human life is both sacred and social. Because we esteem human life as sacred, we have a duty to protect and foster it at all stages of development from conception to natural death, and in all circumstance. Because we also acknowledge that human life is social, we must develop the kind of societal environment that protects and fosters its development.
Secondly, there is a popular misconception that the development of public policy is a purely secular or political endeavor, or merely economic or technological in scope. If this were the case, then the Church and religious leaders would have no specific role in the development of such policy. However, there are important moral and religious dimensions to each of the problems facing the human community, and these dimensions must be taken into consideration in the development of public policy.
Individuals, institutions, and governments frequently make important decisions that affect human lives about such issues as scientific research, the distribution of the earth´s resources and technological application. Increasingly, voices echoing the concepts of philosophers and the concerns of ordinary people say that the distinctive mark of human genius is to order every aspect of contemporary life in light of a moral vision, because a moral vision seeks to direct the resources of politics, economics, science, technology and religion to the welfare of the human person and the human community.
The necessity of moral analysis in the public policies that affect our lives is rooted in the character of the issues we have faced just in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Whether we are speaking about nuclear war, capital punishment or abortion, the major issues of the day are not purely technical or tactical in nature; they are fundamental questions in which the moral dimension is a pervasive and persistent factor. We live in a world which is becoming more and more interdependent on every level of human existence, and the same moral vision which supports the Church´s teaching on warfare and economics, for example, must be equally visible in our opposition to abortion.
Abortion violates two central tenets of the Christian moral vision. It is the direct attack on innocent life. It is also a failure to observe the command that we love the least among us. In the words of Pope John Paul II, abortion strikes “at the whole moral order.” It attacks the whole moral order, not just one religious perspective about morality. Protecting innocent life from direct attack is a fundamental human and moral imperative, not an exclusively Catholic belief.
The opposition to abortion is rooted in the conviction that civil law and social policy must always be subject to ongoing moral analysis. In addition, the Church´s position opposing abortion is rooted in our understanding of the role of the state and society. The state has positive moral responsibilities; it is not simply a neutral umpire; neither is its role limited to restraining evil. The responsibilities of the state include both the protection of innocent life from attack and enhancement of human life at every stage of its development. The fact that millions of unborn children are being murdered every year throughout the world through abortion is scandalous. Each year, throughout the world, there are 45 million abortions and out of these a million and two hundred thousand are committed in the United States. What is even more disturbing, however, is that civil law could be neutral when innocent life is under attack. The implications for law and morality in such a society are frightening.
These themes drawn from Catholic theology are not restricted in their application to the community of faith. These are truths of the moral and political order which are fundamental to our constitutional heritage. The opposition to abortion is not a sectarian claim, but a reflective, rational position which any person of good will may be invited to consider.
As Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations for the last fifteen years, I have had the honor to represent the Catholic Church in the work of the United Nations Organization. In this capacity, I have witnessed the battle for life from a unique vantage point. In the last decade alone, major United Nations conferences have revealed a situation in which basic human rights, including the right to life, are under siege. From the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, to the Beijing Conference on Women, to the Copenhagen Conference on Social Development and their five-year reviews, I have seen first-hand how pro-abortion groups attempt to impose their death-dealing agenda on the Family of Nations.
Make no mistake about it, there are powerful groups throughout the world lobbying to make abortion a human right, to destroy the cherished institution of the family, to dissolve the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents, and to portray motherhood as an outdated and oppressive vocation as well as pregnancy as a disturbing sickness. As a result, everywhere the Holy See calls for support for the institution of the family, including women´s role in the family, there are States that call for the elimination of such language. I am happy to say, however, that the Holy See has not stood alone in defending these important values.
Nicaragua has consistently and gallantly supported the Holy See in this stand, as have Argentina, Honduras and Guatemala. We have also had the help of our brothers and sisters from Islamic Countries, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait.
And so, today, as the Church celebrates the Annunciation, know that the Government and the people of Nicaragua, have the thanks of the Church for all you have done and continue to do to assist the cause of life. Know also that you have my admiration for your prayers, for your sacrifices, and for all you do every day for the cause
of life in your own country here in this part of Central America.
But let me also encourage you in your work, because I know you must sometimes be tempted to lose heart in defending life. I would like to leave you with the words of Pope John Paul II, who has encouraged Christians to play an active and prophetic role in public life. In particular, he has stressed the opportunity Christians have to be effective in democratic societies, even when there are setbacks in the battle to defend life. The Holy Father said just recently that “democracy is our best opportunity to promote the values that will make the world a better place for everyone, but a society which exalts individual choice as the ultimate source of truth undermines the very foundations of democracy. If there is no objective moral order which everyone must respect, and if each individual is expected to supply his or her own truth and ethic of life … the strong will prevail and the weak will be swept away.”1
In declaring this day the Day of the Unborn Child, the President of Nicaragua declares his conviction that the moral dimension of public life is a topic which people inside and outside religious communities are concerned about. And any day a State can demonstrate how a moral vision enriches the choices and the challenges which confront the Family of Nations, is a day of hope. That is what this day is all about, and I thank you, Mr. President, and all of your collaborators who have promoted this splendid initiative. May God grant you and your noble nation the wisdom and courage to continue to build a society of solidarity in support of the human person.
The Holy Father reminds us that our faith has given us the confidence to prevail, so that even when our optimism is tested, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the sturdy foundation of hope for the future.”
This said, my dear Nicaraguans, let us do what we have been called to do. Let us hold fast to our God-given principles. Let us defend the Gospel of Life. Let us not be afraid to build what Pope Paul VI frequently called “a civilization of love.” For, as Pope John Paul II remind us, “Love casts out fear, fear of the future, fear of the other, fear that there is not enough room at the banquet of life for the least of our brothers and sisters. Love does not tear down, but is rather the virtue that builds up. And this is my prayer for you: that as men and women involved in public life, you will be truly builders of a civilization of love.”2
1 Message of Pope John Paul II to the American National Prayer Breakfast, 4 February 2000.
[Text supplied by Holy See mission]