Respect for Life Promotes Peace and Progress

Pope Addresses New Ambassador From Guatemala

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy SEPT. 2, 2004 ( John Paul II said that when the legislation of a country respects the natural law, in particular the right to life, it promotes peace and progress.

The Holy Father expressed this conviction at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, when he received the letters of credentials of Juan Gavarrete Soberón, the new ambassador from Guatemala.

“I am happy to see that the defense of human life, from its conception until its natural end, is constitutionally recognized in your nation, and that is a badge of honor for Guatemala,” the Pope said.

“In this, as in other areas, when civil legislation assumes the principles of natural law” the “peace and progress of nations” is fostered, he continued.

Two of John Paul II’s three visits to Guatemala, in 1983 and 1996, took place when the country was living through a tragic internal armed conflict that lasted 36 years, and that caused the death of more than 200,000 people, the majority Indians, and the displacement of one million, especially to Mexico.

After the peace agreement was signed, the Pope returned to the country in July of 2002 and fostered reconciliation by canonizing Brother Pedro De San José De Betancurt, native of the Canary Islands, who gave his life for the poorest.

“Unfortunately, although the internal armed conflict ended, Guatemala cannot ignore the violence that has harassed many people,” the Bishop of Rome lamented in his address to the ambassador.

“I wish to recall that among the many victims, ministers of the Church and servants of the Gospel were not lacking, such as Bishop Juan Gerardi, killed in 1998, whose case has yet to be completely clarified, as well as several priests and catechists.”

“No efforts must be spared to attain social peace in the country and reconciliation among all the citizens,” the Holy Father exhorted.

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