Cardinal Turkson’s Address to Seminar on Health and Sexuality

“The Holy See has always maintained its commitment to both human life and the dignity of women”

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

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A message from the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, was read Tuesday at a  seminar in Rome on health and sexuality in sustainable development goals and in Catholic Church teaching. The seminar, held on International Women’s Day, was co-sponsored by the Council for Justice and Peace, the World youth Alliance (WYA) and its sister organization, FEMM, that deals with women’s health issues.

Here are the remarks from the cardinal:

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Thank you for coming to this important lecture, which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is co-sponsoring with the World Youth Alliance (WYA), FEMM, and the Reproductive Health Research Institute (RHRI). The Council has worked closely with the World Youth Alliance since its founding in 1999, both at the United Nations and in supporting the organization’s work with young people in more than 160 countries around the world. This collaboration has been important and fruitful because of the foundational commitment of both organizations to defend the dignity of each person, and to advocate for person-centered responses in the actions that we take individually and globally.

We are happy, therefore, to continue and to advance our collaboration tonight, particularly in light of the recent encyclical, Laudato si’, in which the Holy Father exhorts humankind to combine the best science available with the Church’s values and teachings to “open up” the “immense possibilities … before us” [§102]. Tonight, we move beyond the advocacy of person-centered proposals to the development of programs that can meet the urgent and basic needs of people around the world. In particular, the World Youth Alliance, through its collaboration with its sister organizations FEMM and the RHRI, has developed cutting-edge educational and medical programs to advance the care for women’s health in response to needs expressed by governments, civil society and the Church. As such, these organizations exemplify the Holy Father’s words: “Science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both” [§62].

When adopting the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Holy See rejected a one-dimensional interpretation of reproductive health requiring an ideological promotion of contraception and abortion. As Pope Francis notes in Laudato si’, “The more complex problems of today’s world … cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including … social ethics” [§110]. The Holy See has always maintained its commitment to both human life and the dignity of women, and has also reaffirmed a commitment to science and ongoing advances that can further defend and support the needs faced by women, families and children in human and effective ways. At the same time, technology based on science provides humanity with tremendous “power over itself”, and we need to work very hard together to make sure that it is used wisely [§104].

Tonight’s lecture demonstrates the impressive advances that can be achieved when a deep commitment to science in the service of the needs of the human person is offered. The work of RHRI, led by Dr. Pilar Vigil, is a testament to a lifetime of careful research and clinical care in order to provide solutions for the suffering of so many women, both in their health and in the management and use of their fertility.

WYA was awarded a Papal Foundation grant last year, highlighting Pope Francis’ recognition of its important work in support of the poor and defenceless and mirroring the gratitude of this Pontifical Council for WYA’s endeavors. This collaboration in the development of new programs that advance the science, research, and clinical ability to care for women and families is an enormous service to the families and to the world, and one which the Pontifical Council is proud to highlight and support. Trusting that this lecture will further expand awareness and understanding of WYA’s important work in the Vatican and throughout the world, we are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the organization’s vital work.

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

President

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