Katholieke Stichting Medische Ethiek
5 juli 2022

Abortus USA

Pauselijke Academie voor het Leven, 24 juni 2022

Regarding the United States Supreme Court decision that modified the 1973 legal position Roe v. Wade on the issue of abortion, the Pontifical Academy for Life presents the following statement.

The Pontifical Academy for Life joins U.S. Bishops’ statement on the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. As Archbishop H. Gomez and Archbishop Lori declared:

“It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”

The Court’s opinion shows how the issue of abortion continues to arouse heated debate. The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world. It is not right that the problem is set aside without adequate overall consideration. The protection and defense of human life is not an issue that can remain confined to the exercise of individual rights but instead is a matter of broad social significance. After 50 years, it is important to reopen a non-ideological debate on the place that the protection of life has in a civil society to ask ourselves what kind of coexistence and society we want to build.

It is a question of developing political choices that promote conditions of existence in favor of life without falling into a priori ideological positions. This also means ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures to protect the family and motherhood, overcoming existing inequalities. We need solid assistance to mothers, couples and the unborn child that involves the whole community, encouraging the possibility for mothers in difficulty to carry on with the pregnancy and to entrust the child to those who can guarantee the child’s growth.

Archbishop Paglia said: “in the face of Western society that is losing its passion for life, this act is a powerful invitation to reflect together on the serious and urgent issue of human generativity and the conditions that make it possible; by choosing life, our responsibility for the future of humanity is at stake”.

COMECE: ‘Abortus is geen Europees of internationaal recht’

Declaration of the General Secretary of COMECE on the EP discussion on “Global threats to abortion rights”

In view of the discussion scheduled for today, Wednesday 8 June 2022, in the European Parliament under the title “Global threats to abortion rights: the possible overturn of abortion rights in the US by the Supreme Court”, the Secretary General of COMECE, Fr Manuel Barrios Prieto, has made the following declaration:

We see with surprise that the European Parliament will discuss the impact of a leaked draft opinion of the US Supreme Court concerning abortion. This is an unacceptable interference in the democratic jurisdictional decisions of a sovereign state, a country that is also not a Member State of the EU. The adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament that endorses this interference will only discredit this institution.

In this regard, we would like to reiterate that, from a legal perspective, there is no recognized right to abortion in European or International Law. Therefore, no State can be obliged to legalize abortion, or to facilitate it, or be instrumental to perform it.

The EU should respect the legislative competences of its Member States and the principle of conferral whereby the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaties to attain the objectives set out therein (Article 5.2 of the Treaty of the European Union). As the Standing Committee of COMECE expressed in a statement in February 2022 the attempt to introduce a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union would be a law “devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU.”

We also note with high concern and regret the negation of the fundamental right to conscientious objection, which is an emanation of freedom of conscience, as declared by Article 10.1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and recognised by the UN Human Rights Committee (case Jeong et al v. Republic of Korea, 27 April 2011). We are alarmed that the right of health institutions to refuse to provide certain services, including abortion, is weakened or, even, denied. As stated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in its Resolution 1763 (2010) on the right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care “no person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage (…) or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”

As the Standing Committee of COMECE highlighted: “We are aware of the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves. Caring for women who are in a difficult or a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies. Women in distress should not be left alone, nor can the right to life of the unborn child be ignored. They both must receive all necessary help and assistance.”

Drie tegengiffen in de gezondheidszorg

Address to the members of the Federsanità Confederation

Pope Francis
4 June 2022

Dear friends, welcome!

I thank the President for her words. She quoted Saint Giuseppe Moscati, truly a “good Samaritan” who knew how to embody a style of integral care, in the territory. Your Confederation, which brings together local health authorities, hospitals, and scientific hospitalization and treatment institutes, together with representatives of the Association of Italian Municipalities, also has a strong link with the territory, in a continuous dynamic of exchange between local, regional and national levels. With your efforts, you contribute to maintaining the relationship between center and periphery, between small and large, weaving relationships and promoting pathways of socio-healthcare and socio-welfare integration.

Precisely from the identity of your confederation, I would like to propose three “antidotes” that can help you the path you have charted.

First, proximity: it is the antidote to self-referentiality. Proximity. Seeing in the patient another self breaks the chains of selfishness, topples the pedestal on which we are sometimes tempted to climb and prompts us to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters, regardless of language, geographical origin, social status or health condition. If we are able to perceive the people we meet in hospital wards, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics, primarily as brothers and sisters, everything changes: “taking charge” of them ceases to be a bureaucratic matter and becomes an encounter, accompaniment, sharing. Our God is the God of proximity. Indeed, he presented himself as such: in Deuteromy he said: “What nation is there that has a god so near to it?”. Proximity, closeness. Our God, who is the God of proximity, chose to take on our flesh; he is not a distant, unreachable God. He walks with us, on the bumpy roads of this world, as he did with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-32), who listens to the confusion, the anguish, the cry of pain of each person. He asks us to do the same. And this is all the more important when we find ourselves in sickness and suffering. Becoming close to others also means breaking down distances, making sure that there are no first- and second-class patients, committing energies and resources so that no one is excluded from social and health care. And this brings us to what the president reminded us about public healthcare: when a country loses this wealth that is public healthcare, it begins to make distinctions within the population between those who have access, who can have paid healthcare, and those who are left without healthcare services. Therefore, it is a wealth of yours, here in Italy, public healthcare: do not lose it, please, do not lose it!

Here then is the second antidote: wholeness, which is opposed to fragmentation and partiality. If everything is connected, we must also rethink the concept of health from a holistic perspective, embracing all dimensions of the person. Without detracting from the value of specific expertise, healing a sick person means considering not only a certain pathology, but his or her psychological, social, cultural and spiritual condition. When Jesus heals someone, He not only eradicates the physical ailment from the body, but also restores dignity, reintroducing him or her into society, giving a new life. Of course, only He can do this, but the attitude, the approach to the person is model for us. A holistic view of care helps counter the “throwaway culture” which excludes those who, for various reasons, do not meet certain standards. In a society that is in danger of seeing the sick as a burden, a cost, we need to restore to the centre that which is priceless and cannot be bought or sold, that is, the dignity of the person. Illnesses may mark the body, confuse thoughts, take away strength, but they can never nullify the value of human life, which must always be protected, from conception to its natural end. I hope that research and the various health professions will always have this outlook.

And the third antidote is the common good, as a remedy to the pursuit of partisan interests. Even in the field of healthcare, the temptation to make the economic or political interests of one group prevail at the expense of the majority of the population. And this applies also on the level of international relations. The fundamental right to healthcare – I quote from the New Charter for Healthcare Workers – “pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living conditions, and stages of development, in pursuing the common good, which is at the same time the good of all and of each individual” (no. 141). The pandemic has taught us that “every man for himself” translates rapidly into “everyone against all”, widening the gap of inequality and increasing conflict. Instead, it is necessary to work to ensure that everyone has access to care, that the healthcare system is supported and promoted, and that it continues to be free of charge. Cutting resources for healthcare is an outrage to humanity.

Proximity, wholeness and the common good: I give you these “antidotes”, encouraging you to continue to work in the service of the sick and for the whole of society. May Saint Giuseppe Moscati guide you in your daily work and give you the wisdom of caring and protecting. I bless you from my heart and entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. And please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!

Hulp bij zelfdoding toestaan, houdt legalisering euthanasie niet tegen

Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 4 maart 2022
door kardinaal Wim Eijk, aartsbisschop van Utrecht, bisschop-referent voor medisch-ethische kwesties en lid van de Pauselijke Academie voor het Leven

Een Italiaans wetsontwerp voor de legalisering van medische hulp bij zelfdoding, riep de vraag op of de Kerk zo’n wet niet zou moeten steunen, om zo legalisering van euthanasie te kunnen voorkomen. Dat is echter een utopie: er is geen significant moreel verschil tussen de twee.

Bij (vrijwillige) euthanasie dient de arts door middel van een injectie of een infuus een dodelijke dosis geneesmiddelen toe om het leven van de patiënt op diens eigen verzoek te beëindigen. Men spreekt van hulp bij zelfdoding, wanneer de patiënt zelf een dodelijke dosis geneesmiddelen inneemt, die door zijn arts is voorgeschreven met het doel hem in staat te stellen een einde aan zijn leven te maken. In het eerste geval verricht de arts de levensbeëindigende handeling, in het tweede geval de patiënt zelf.

Intrinsiek kwaad

Zowel bij euthanasie als bij medische hulp bij zelfdoding neemt de patiënt zelf het initiatief om zijn leven te (doen) beëindigen, wat impliceert dat hij in beide gevallen dezelfde verantwoordelijkheid voor zijn dood draagt.

Bij euthanasie is het de arts die de levensbeëindigende handeling verricht, die intrinsiek kwaad is. Bij zelfdoding met medische hulp werkt de arts mee aan de beëindiging van het leven van de patiënt. Omdat hij de intentie van de patiënt om zijn leven te beëindigen deelt, is zijn medewerking formeel (en niet materieel).

Dezelfde morele verantwoordelijkheid

Formele medewerking aan een intrinsiek slechte daad is op zichzelf intrinsiek kwaad. Er is dus geen significant moreel verschil tussen medische hulp bij zelfdoding en euthanasie, noch van de kant van de patiënt, noch van die van de arts. Beiden dragen in beide gevallen dezelfde morele verantwoordelijkheid. Het enige verschil is misschien dat medische hulp bij zelfdoding voor de arts psychisch minder belastend is dan euthanasie.

Wanneer men medische hulp bij zelfdoding zou toestaan, dan is men gedwongen om ook euthanasie toe te staan. Het is zinloos te stellen dat men door in te stemmen met de legalisering van medische hulp bij zelfdoding de legalisering van euthanasie zou kunnen voorkomen. Omdat het morele verschil tussen beide niet significant is, zou automatisch de weg vrijgemaakt worden voor het legaliseren van euthanasie.

Zouden we in dit geval paragraaf 73 van de encycliek Evangelium Vitae van paus Johannes Paulus II toe kunnen passen, waarin hij schrijft: “Een bijzonder gewetensprobleem kan zich voordoen in de gevallen waarin een parlementaire stemming beslissend zou zijn voor het aannemen van een strengere wet, bedoeld om het aantal legale abortussen te beperken, in plaats van een wet die meer toelaat, wanneer die reeds zou zijn aangenomen of ter stemming gereed zou liggen. […] In een geval als het juist genoemde, wanneer het niet mogelijk is een abortuswet af te wenden of volledig af te stemmen, zou het een afgevaardigde, wiens persoonlijke absolute tegenstand tegen abortus duidelijk en aan iedereen bekend gemaakt was, geoorloofd kunnen zijn wetsvoorstellen te steunen die ten doel hebben de schade te beperken van zo’n wet en die de negatieve effecten op het gebied van de cultuur en de openbare moraal verminderen.” Paus Johannes Paulus II kwalificeert dit niet als een ongeoorloofde vorm van medewerking aan een onrechtvaardige of onvolmaakte wet.

Volgende logische stap

Maar stemmen voor een wet die medische hulp bij zelfdoding toestaat, impliceert geenszins een rem op het legaliseren van euthanasie. De hierboven vermelde paragraaf uit Evangelium Vitae is dus niet van toepassing op deze kwestie. Integendeel, legalisering van medische hulp bij zelfdoding maakt automatisch de weg vrij voor legalisering van euthanasie als de volgende logische stap. Want er bestaat geen significant moreel verschil tussen deze twee.

Geen moreel verschil tussen hulp bij zelfdoding en euthanasie

No significant moral difference exists between medically assisted suicide and euthanasia

RKKerk.nl, 24 februari 2022

by Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht, Responsible for medical-ethics questions on behalf of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life

In the case of (voluntary) euthanasia the physician administers by way of an injection or a drip a lethal dose of drugs in order to terminate the life of the patient at his request. One speaks of medically-assisted suicide, when the patient himself takes a lethal dose of drugs, prescribed intentionally by his physician in order to enable the patient to terminate his life. In the first case the physician performs the life terminating act, in medical-assisted suicide the patient himself performs the act which terminates his life.

In euthanasia as well as in medically-assisted suicide the patient takes the initiative to (make) terminate his life, which implies that he in both cases bears the same responsibility for his death. In euthanasia it is the physician who performs the killing act, which is intrinsic evil. In medically-assisted suicide the physician cooperates in terminating the patient’s life. Because he approves of the patient’s intention to end his life, his cooperation is formal (and not material). Formal cooperation in an intrinsically evil act is in itself intrinsic evil. Consequently, there is no significant moral difference between medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia, neither from the patient’s side, nor from that of the physician. Both bear the same moral responsibility in euthanasia as well as in medically-assisted suicide. The only difference is perhaps that medically-assisted suicide brings about less psychic tensions for the physician that euthanasia.

When one would allow medically-assisted suicide, one is confined to also allow euthanasia. Stating that by agreeing with the legislation of medically-assisted suicide one could prevent the legislation of euthanasia makes no sense. One would simply and automatically pave the way for legalizing euthanasia, because the ethical difference between both is not significant.

Would it be possible to apply to this case paragraph 73 of John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium vitae, in which he writes: “A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on … in a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.” Pope John Paul II does not qualify this as an illicit form of cooperation in an unjust or imperfect law.

However, voting for a law by which medically-assisted suicide is allowed by no means implies a restriction to legalizing euthanasia. So the paragraph of Evangelium vitae, mentioned above, is not applicable to this case. On the contrary, legalizing medically-assisted suicide automatically paves the way for legalizing euthanasia as the next logical step. For no significant moral difference exists between medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Cardinal Eijk comments the position of two other members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, as pointed out in the National Catholic Register and La Vita Cattolica

Catechese over ouderdom

Paus Franciscus
23 februari 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We have finished the catechesis on St Joseph. Today we begin a catechetical journey that seeks inspiration in the Word of God on the meaning and value of old age. Let us reflect on old age. For some decades now, this stage of life has concerned a veritable “new people”, the elderly. There have never been so many of us in human history. The risk of being discarded is even more frequent: never have so many as now, been at risk of being discarded. The elderly are often seen as ‘a burden’. In the dramatic first phase of the pandemic it was they who paid the highest price. They were already the weakest and most neglected group: we did not look at them too much when they were alive, we did not even see them die. I also found this Charter on the rights of the elderly and the duties of the community: this was edited by governments, it is not edited by the Church, it is a secular thing: it is good, it is interesting, to know that the elderly have rights. It will be good to read it.

Together with migration, old age is one of the most urgent issues facing the human family at this time. It is not just a question of quantitative change; the unity of the stages of life is at stake: that is, the real point of reference for understanding and appreciating human life in its entirety. We ask ourselves: is there friendship, is there cooperation between the different stages of life, or do separation and being discarded prevail? 

We all live in a present where children, young people, adults and the elderly coexist. But the proportion has changed: longevity has become mass and, in large parts of the world, childhood is distributed in small doses. We talked about the winter demographic as well. An imbalance that has many consequences. The dominant culture has as its sole model the young adult, i.e. a self-made individual who always remains young. But is it true that youth contains the full meaning of life, while old age simply represents its emptying and loss? Is that true? Only youth has the full meaning of life, and old age is the emptying of life, the loss of life? The exaltation of youth as the only age worthy of embodying the human ideal, coupled with contempt for old age as frailty, decay, disability, has been the dominant image of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Have we forgotten this? 

The lengthening of life has a structural impact on the history of individuals, families and societies. But we must ask ourselves: is its spiritual quality and its communal sense consistent with this fact? Perhaps the elderly need to apologise for their stubbornness in surviving at the expense of others? Or can they be honoured for the gifts they bring to everyone’s sense of life? In fact, in the representation of the meaning of life – and precisely in so-called ‘developed’ cultures – old age has little incidence. Why? Because it is regarded as an age that has no special content to offer, nor meaning of its own to live. What is more, there is a lack of encouragement for people to seek them out, and a lack of education for the community to recognise them. In short, for an age that is now a decisive part of the community space and extends to a third of the entire life span, there are – at times – care plans, but not projects of existence. Care plans, yes; but not plans to live them to the full. And this is a void of thought, imagination and creativity. Underneath this thinking, what makes a vacuum is that the elderly, the elderly are waste material: in this culture of waste, the elderly are like waste material.

Youth is beautiful, but eternal youth is a very dangerous illusion. Being old is just as important – and beautiful – is equally important as being young. Let us remember this. The alliance between generations, which restores all ages of life to the human, is our lost gift and we have to get it back. It must be found, in this culture of waste and in this culture of productivity.

The Word of God has much to say about this covenant. Just now we heard the prophecy of Joel, the one who began today’s Audience: “Your elders shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (3:1). It can be interpreted as follows: when the elderly resist the Spirit, burying their dreams in the past, the young can no longer see the things that must be done to open up the future. When, on the other hand, the old communicate their dreams, the young see clearly what they have to do. Young people who no longer question the dreams of the old, aiming headlong at visions that do not go beyond their noses, will struggle to carry their present and bear their future. If grandparents fall back on their melancholies, young people will look even more to their smartphones. The screen may stay on, but life will die out before its time. Isn’t the most serious backlash of the pandemic precisely in the loss of the young? The old have resources of life already lived that they can call upon at any moment. Will they stand by and watch young people lose their vision, or will they accompany them by warming their dreams? Faced with the dreams of the old, what will the young do?

The wisdom of the long journey that accompanies old age to its close must be experienced as an offer of meaning to life, not consumed as the inertia of its survival. If old age is not restored to the dignity of a humanly worthy life, it is destined to close itself off in a despondency that robs everyone of love. This challenge of humanity and civilisation requires our commitment and God’s help. Let us ask the Holy Spirit. With these catecheses on old age, I would like to encourage everyone to invest their thoughts and affections in the gifts it brings and in the other stages of life. Old age is a gift for all stages of life. It is a gift of maturity, of wisdom. The Word of God will help us discern the meaning and value of old age; may the Holy Spirit grant us too the dreams and visions we need. 

And I would like to emphasise, as we heard in the prophecy of Joel at the beginning, that the important thing is not only that the elderly occupy the place of wisdom they have, of lived history in society, but also that there be a conversation, that they talk to the young. The young must talk to the elderly, and the elderly to the young. And this bridge will be the transmission of wisdom in humanity. I hope that these reflections will be of use to all of us, to carry forward this reality that the prophet Joel said, that in the dialogue between young and old, the old can provide dreams and the young can receive them and carry them forward. Let us not forget that in both family and social culture, the elderly are like the roots of the tree: they have all the history there, and the young are like the flowers and the fruit. If the juice does not come, if this ‘drip’ – let’s say – does not come from the roots, they will never be able to flourish. Let us not forget the poem I have said many times: “All that the tree has that flourishes comes from what it has buried” (“… what the tree has that flourishes lives on what it has buried”, Francisco Luis Bernárdez). Everything beautiful that a society has is related to the roots of the elderly. For this reason, in these catecheses, I would like the figure of the elderly person to come up, to understand well that the elderly person is not a waste material: he/she is a blessing for society. Thank you.

Ook hulp bij zelfdoding legaliseren schendt de beschermwaardigheid van het leven

Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 18 februari 2022
door broeder René Stockman, generaal overste van de Broeders van Liefde

Het legaliseren van hulp bij zelfdoding wordt soms voorgesteld als een ‘minder kwaad’, dat legalisering van euthanasie kan helpen voorkomen. Bij die redenatie kunnen flinke vraagtekens worden gezet.

In Italië waaide de laatste weken een onheilspellende wind. Er werden pogingen ondernomen om de legalisering van hulp bij zelfdoding via referendum te forceren. Op 15 februari werd dit echter door het grondwettelijk hof afgevoerd. Velen, waaronder de woordvoerders van de Italiaanse Kerk, waren opgelucht.

De zaak is echter nog helemaal niet van de baan, want in het parlement werkt men verder aan een wetsvoorstel om hulp bij zelfdoding alsnog te legaliseren.

Gebotst met de wet

De hele beweging startte met de zaak van Fabiano Antoniani. Hij raakte na een verkeersongeval in 2014 volledig verlamd en blind en zocht tevergeefs naar wegen om zijn leven te beëindigen. Uiteindelijk trok hij naar Zwitserland om daar onder begeleiding zelfdoding te kunnen plegen.

De begeleider, Marco Cappato, is lid van een vereniging die legalisering van hulp bij zelfdoding promoot. Hij werd als medeplichtige in staat van beschuldiging gesteld, maar uiteindelijk vrijgesproken: hij zou hebben gehandeld in lijn met een wens tot zelfdoding die volledig autonoom en vrij was genomen. Dit botste met de wet die in Italië zowel euthanasie als hulp bij zelfdoding strafbaar stelt.

Daarop werd vorig jaar een referendumaanvraag ingediend, om te peilen of ook in Italië de tijd rijp is om euthanasie te legaliseren. Met steun van meer dan 750.000 handtekeningen werd dan eind december 2021 binnen het parlement een verzoek ingediend om in eerste instantie de mogelijkheid tot legalisering van hulp bij zelfdoding te bestuderen. Dat is nu voorlopig on hold geplaatst.

‘A’ en ‘b’ zeggen

Het een lijkt de weg te moeten openen voor het ander. Euthanasie onder bepaalde voorwaarden legaliseren lijkt in Italië nog te ver gaan, dus wordt gepoogd een opening te creëren om eerst hulp bij zelfdoding erdoor te krijgen.

De volgende stap zal dan echter ook heel gemakkelijk kunnen worden gezet, want wie ‘a’ zegt, zegt in dit geval ook al ‘b’. Tenslotte gaat het in beide gevallen om het doden van een mens en dus schending van de beschermwaardigheid van het leven, al zijn de omstandigheden verschillend en zullen ook andere voorwaarden gelden.

Een minder kwaad

Natuurlijk kwamen er meteen reacties. Zo ook in het jezuïetentijdschrift La Civiltà Cattolica. Dat is wel niet de officiële spreekbuis van de Kerk in Italië, maar wordt volgens insiders toch wel gecontroleerd door het Vaticaans Staatssecretariaat.

De stellingname van pater Carlo Casolone s.j., oud-provinciale overste en zelf geneesheer, riep verwondering op en er kunnen ernstige vragen bij worden over gesteld. Hij schreef dat men misschien toch de hulp bij zelfdoding als een minder kwaad kan beschouwen dan euthanasie, en dat het daarom beter zou zijn dit wetsvoorstel te steunen om te voorkomen dat men de stap naar legalisering van euthanasie zou zetten.

Kiezen voor het minste kwaad is natuurlijk plausibel, als het niet gaat over daden die als intrinsiek kwaad moeten worden bestempeld. Maar daarover gaat het bij zowel zelfdoding als euthanasie wel.

Dat is geen veroordeling van mensen die zelfmoord plegen of hun leven beëindigen met euthanasie. Vanuit de geestelijke gezondheidszorg weten we dat mensen soms zozeer ontredderd kunnen zijn dat ze geen andere uitweg meer zien dan zelfdoding. En ook bij euthanasie begrijp ik dat het lijden mensen zodanig kan treffen dat ze hun situatie als uitzichtloos zien.

Uitzichtloosheid doorbreken

Maar het is juist aan de hulpverleners om in zulke gevallen met de betrokkenen te zoeken naar hoe men de uitzichtloosheid kan doorbreken, en te proberen opnieuw perspectief te bieden. Dat is bij mensen die zelfdoding overwegen normaal ook wat men in therapie probeert, terwijl men bij hulp bij zelfdoding juist een heel andere ‘helpende’ hand uitsteekt… De tegenstelling is eigenaardig, maar dit terzijde.

De eigenlijke vraag is of er zoveel verschil bestaat tussen euthanasie en hulp bij zelfdoding. Bij beide wordt de dood kunstmatig veroorzaakt, en dat rechtstreeks of onrechtstreeks met de hulp van een derde die een middel ter beschikking stelt of zelfs – bij euthanasie – toedient. De uitkomst is dezelfde. Hier spreken van een minder kwaad om een groter kwaad te voorkomen, gaat volgens mij helemaal niet op.

Wanneer de Kerk weigert mee te stappen in de discussie en zich blijft verzetten tegen iedere vorm van kunstmatig beëindigen van het leven, dreigt zij volgens Casolone aan de zijlijn te belanden, en ontneemt zij zichzelf de mogelijkheid om eventueel tot een ethisch compromis te komen. Maar is binnen de huidige context een ethisch compromis wel mogelijk? Wijkt de Kerk dan niet fundamenteel af van wat zij tot nu toe als niet-onderhandelbaar beschouwde: eerbiediging van de absolute beschermwaardigheid van het leven van de conceptie tot de natuurlijke dood?

Moeten we niet juist aan de zijlijn gaan staan en blijven herhalen dat de huidige trends de gemeenschap helemaal niet dienen? Zij zijn eerder nefaste gevolgen van een steeds verdergaand individualisme, dat de beschermwaardigheid van het leven vervangt door een absolute zelfbeschikking, waaraan niet meer getornd kan worden. Daarmee wordt het edelste van de mens, zijn leven zelf, ondergeschikt gemaakt en zelfs opgeofferd.

Hellend vlak

Laten we voorzichtig zijn en ons verweren, om niet meegezogen te worden door deze logica. De bereidheid om na te denken of hulp bij zelfdoding in bepaalde omstandigheden niet toch een uitweg is, is een valkuil, waarbij we belanden op een hellend vlak richting de uiteindelijke relativering van de beschermwaardigheid van alle leven. Wie ‘a’ zegt, zal hier onwillekeurig ook ‘b’ zeggen.

‘Jezus wacht op ons achter de donkere deur van de dood’

Paus Franciscus
9 februari 2022

Beste broeders en zusters, goedemorgen!

In de vorige catechese hebben wij, wederom geïnspireerd door de figuur van de heilige Jozef, nagedacht over de betekenis van de gemeenschap van de heiligen. Juist vanuit dit punt vertrekkend zou ik vandaag de bijzondere devotie willen onderzoeken die de christenen altijd hebben gehad tot de heilige Jozef als de patroonheilige van een goede dood.

Het is een devotie die is ontstaan vanuit de gedachte dat Jozef stierf ondersteund door de Maagd Maria en Jezus, voordat Hij zijn thuis in Nazareth verliet. Er zijn geen historische gegevens bekend, maar aangezien Jozef niet meer naar voren komt tijdens Jezus’ openbare leven, denkt men dat hij in Nazareth is overleden, in bijzijn van zijn familie. Jezus en Maria waren bij hem toen hij stierf.

Via Jozef en Maria naar Jezus

Een eeuw geleden schreef paus Benedictus XV dat “wij via Jozef rechtstreeks naar Maria gaan, en via Maria naar de oorsprong van alle heiligheid, die Jezus is”. Zowel Jozef als Maria helpen ons om naar Jezus te gaan. En ter aanmoediging van de devotie tot de heilige Jozef, beval de paus er een in het bijzonder aan:

“Aangezien hij terecht als de meest doeltreffende beschermer van de stervenden wordt beschouwd, daar hij met de steun van Jezus en Maria is heengegaan, zal het de zorg van de heilige herders zijn om (…) die vrome verenigingen te steunen en te bevorderen die in het leven zijn geroepen om de hulp van Jozef voor de stervenden af te smeken, zoals die ‘van de goede dood’, van ‘de overtocht van de heilige Jozef’ en ‘voor de stervenden” (Motu proprio Bonum sane, 25 juli 1920). Dat waren de verenigingen van die tijd.

Donkere deur van de dood

Beste broeders en zusters, misschien denken sommigen dat dit woordgebruik en dit thema slechts een erfenis uit het verleden zijn, maar in werkelijkheid gaat onze relatie met de dood nooit over het verleden, zij is altijd aanwezig.

Emeritus-paus Benedictus XVI zei enkele dagen geleden, sprekend over zichzelf, dat hij “voor de donkere deur van de dood staat”. Het is mooi om paus Benedictus te bedanken die op 95-jarige leeftijd de helderheid van geest heeft om ons dit te zeggen: “Ik sta voor de duisternis van de dood, de donkere deur van de dood”. Het is een prachtig advies dat hij ons heeft gegeven!


De zogenaamde wellnesscultuur probeert de realiteit van de dood weg te nemen, maar op dramatische wijze heeft de pandemie van het coronavirus deze weer onder de aandacht gebracht. Het was verschrikkelijk: de dood was overal, en talloze broeders en zusters verloren geliefden zonder dat zij in hun nabijheid konden verkeren, en dit maakte de dood nog moeilijker te aanvaarden en te verwerken.

Een verpleegster vertelde me dat een grootmoeder met corona stervende was, en ze zei tegen haar: “Ik zou graag afscheid nemen van mijn familie voor ik vertrek.” En de dappere verpleegster pakte de mobiele telefoon en verbond haar door. De tederheid van dat afscheid…

Desondanks proberen wij op alle mogelijke manieren de gedachte aan onze eindigheid uit te bannen, waardoor wij onszelf wijsmaken dat wij de macht van de dood wegnemen en de angst uitbannen. Maar het christelijk geloof is geen manier om de angst voor de dood te bezweren, het helpt ons die angst onder ogen te zien. Vroeg of laat gaan we allemaal door die deur.

Het ware licht

Het ware licht dat het mysterie van de dood verlicht, komt van Christus’ verrijzenis. Dat is het licht. En de apostel Paulus schrijft: “En als wij verkondigen dat Christus uit de doden is opgestaan, hoe kunnen dan sommigen onder u beweren, dat er geen opstanding van de doden bestaat? Als er geen opstanding van de doden bestaat, is ook Christus niet verrezen. En wanneer Christus niet is verrezen, is onze prediking zonder inhoud en uw geloof eveneens” (1 Kor. 15,12-14).

Er is één zekerheid: Christus is verrezen, Christus is opgestaan, Christus leeft onder ons. En Hij is het licht dat op ons wacht achter die donkere deur van de dood.

Een positieve rol voor de dood

Beste broeders en zusters, alleen door het geloof in de verrijzenis kunnen wij de afgrond van de dood trotseren zonder door angst te worden overweldigd. Niet alleen dat, maar we kunnen de dood een positieve rol geven. Nadenken over de dood, verlicht door het mysterie van Christus, helpt ons om het hele leven met nieuwe ogen te bekijken.

Ik heb nog nooit een verhuiswagen achter een lijkwagen zien rijden! Ik heb het nog nooit gezien. We gaan alleen, met niets in onze zakken, niets. Omdat de lijkwade geen zakken heeft. De eenzaamheid van de dood: het klopt, ik heb nog nooit een verhuiswagen achter een lijkwagen zien rijden.

Het heeft geen zin te van alles te verzamelen als we op een dag zullen sterven. Wat we moeten verzamelen is naastenliefde, het vermogen om te delen, het vermogen om niet onverschillig te staan tegenover de noden van anderen.

Wat is het nut van boos worden?

Wat heeft het voor zin om ruzie te maken met een broer of zus, met een vriend, met een familielid, of met een broeder of zuster in het geloof als we op een dag zullen sterven? Wat is het nut van boos worden, van boos worden op anderen? In het aangezicht van de dood, worden zoveel kwesties kleiner. Het is goed om verzoend te sterven, zonder wrok en zonder spijt! Ik wil iets waars zeggen: we zijn allemaal op weg naar die deur, wij allemaal.

Het Evangelie zegt ons dat de dood komt als een dief; Jezus zegt: hij komt als een dief, en hoezeer wij ook proberen zijn komst te controleren, misschien zelfs onze eigen dood te plannen, het blijft een gebeurtenis waarmee wij rekening moeten houden en waarvoor wij ook keuzes moeten maken.

Twee overwegingen springen er voor ons christenen uit. De eerste is dat we de dood niet kunnen vermijden. Het is juist daarom dat, nadat alles is gedaan wat menselijkerwijs mogelijk is om de zieke te genezen, het immoreel is om aan ’therapeutische koppigheid’ te doen (vgl. Catechismus van de Katholieke Kerk, n. 2278).

Die uitdrukking van Gods trouwe volk, van eenvoudige mensen: “Laat hem in vrede sterven”, “help hem in vrede te sterven”: hoe wijs!

Palliatieve zorg

De tweede overweging betreft de kwaliteit van de dood zelf, de kwaliteit van de pijn, van het lijden. Wij moeten dankbaar zijn voor alle hulp die de geneeskunde tracht te bieden, zodat via de zogenaamde palliatieve zorg ieder mens die op het punt staat het laatste stuk van zijn of haar leven te beleven, dit op de meest menselijke wijze kan doen.

We moeten echter oppassen dat we deze hulp niet verwarren met wat onaanvaardbare neigingen tot doden zijn. We moeten mensen begeleiden naar hun dood, maar niet de dood uitlokken of enige vorm van zelfdoding steunen.

Leven is een recht, niet de dood

Ik wil erop wijzen dat het recht van eenieder op zorg en behandeling altijd voorrang moet krijgen, zodat de zwaksten, met name ouderen en zieken, nooit aan hun lot worden overgelaten. Leven is een recht, niet de dood, die moet worden verwelkomd, niet toegediend.

En dit ethische principe gaat iedereen aan, niet alleen christenen of gelovigen. Ik wil hier de nadruk leggen op een sociaal, maar wel een reëel probleem. Dat ‘plannen’ – ik weet niet of dit het juiste woord is – maar het versnellen van de dood van ouderen. Vaak zien we in een bepaalde sociale klasse dat ouderen, omdat ze de middelen niet hebben, minder medicijnen krijgen dan ze nodig hebben, en dat is onmenselijk: het helpt hen niet, het drijft hen eerder naar de dood. En dit is noch menselijk, noch christelijk.

Schat van de mensheid

De ouderen moeten worden verzorgd als een schat van de mensheid: zij zijn onze wijsheid. Ook al spreken zij niet en hebben zij geen betekenis, toch zijn zij het symbool van menselijke wijsheid. Zij zijn degenen die ons zijn voorgegaan en ons zoveel moois, zoveel herinneringen, zoveel wijsheid hebben nagelaten.

Isoleer de ouderen alstublieft niet, bespoedig de dood van de ouderen niet. Het strelen van een bejaarde heeft dezelfde hoop als het strelen van een kind, want het begin en het einde van een leven is altijd een mysterie, een mysterie dat moet worden gerespecteerd, begeleid, verzorgd, bemind.

Gods barmhartigheid

Moge de heilige Jozef ons helpen het mysterie van de dood op de best mogelijke manier te beleven. Voor een christen is de goede dood een ervaring van Gods barmhartigheid, die ons zelfs in dat laatste ogenblik van ons leven nabij komt.

Zelfs in het Weesgegroet bidden we Onze Lieve Vrouw om ons nabij te zijn “in het uur van onze dood”. Juist daarom wil ik deze catechese afsluiten met samen tot Onze Lieve Vrouw te bidden voor de stervenden, voor hen die door deze donkere deur gaan, en voor familieleden die rouwen.

Bidden we samen: Wees gegroet Maria…

Overgenomen met toestemming van Katholiek Nieuwsblad.

COMECE tegen president Macron: er is geen recht op abortus in Europees of internationaal recht

In a statement released on Tuesday 8 February 2022, the Presidency of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) expresses its deep concern on President Macron’s proposal of including a supposed right to abortion in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Aware of the tragedy and complexity of the situations in which mothers considering an abortion find themselves, the EU Bishops highlight the need to provide the necessary help and assistance to women in distress and to their unborn child.

“Caring for women who are in a difficult or a conflict situation because of their pregnancy is a central part of the diaconal ministry of the Church and must also be a duty exercised by our societies”reads the statement of the EU Bishops.

From a legal perspective, the members of the COMECE Presidency stress that “there is no recognized right to abortion in European or international law. Attempting to change this – they continue – not only goes against fundamental European beliefs and values, but would be an unjust law, devoid of an ethical foundation and destined to be a cause of perpetual conflict among the citizens of the EU”.

“The proposal of President Macron of inserting this supposed right can in no way be seen as «breathing new life into our basic rights»”, continued the Bishops of the European Union.

Recalling the founding fathers of the European Union, the COMECE Presidency stresses that the European integration should always “foster and promote respect for different identities and avoid ideological impositions”.

The statement of the COMECE Presidency follows President Emmanuel Macron’s speech addressed to the European Parliament on 19 January 2022 in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

The Presidency of COMECE is composed of:
• H. Em. Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ (President)
• H.E. Mgr. Mariano Crociata (First Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Noel Treanor (Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Jan Vokál (Vice-President)
• H.E. Mgr. Franz-Josef Overbeck (Vice-President)

Verantwoordelijkheid voor eigen gezondheid en die van anderen is een morele verplichting

Pope Francis
10 January 2022

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Yesterday concluded the liturgical season of Christmas, a privileged period for cultivating family relationships, from which we can at times be distracted and distant due to our many commitments during the year. Today we want to continue in that spirit, as we once more come together as a large family which discusses and dialogues. In the end, that is the aim of all diplomacy: to help resolve disagreements arising from human coexistence, to foster harmony and to realize that, once we pass beyond conflict, we can recover a sense of the profound unity of all reality.

I am therefore particularly grateful to you for taking part today in our annual “family gathering”, a propitious occasion for exchanging good wishes for the New Year and for considering together the lights and shadows of our time. I especially thank the Dean, His Excellency Mr George Poulides, the Ambassador of Cyprus, for his gracious address to me in the name of the entire Diplomatic Corps. Through all of you, I extend my affectionate greetings to the peoples you represent.

Your presence is always a tangible sign of the attention your countries devote to the Holy See and its role in the international community. Many of you have come from other capital cities for today’s event, thus joining the numerous Ambassadors residing in Rome, who will soon be joined by the Swiss Confederation.

Dear Ambassadors,

In these days, we are conscious that the fight against the pandemic still calls for a significant effort on the part of everyone; certainly, the New Year will continue to be demanding in this regard. The coronavirus continues to cause social isolation and to take lives. Among those who have died, I would like to mention the late Archbishop Aldo Giordano, an Apostolic Nuncio who was well-known and respected in the diplomatic community. At the same time, we have realized that in those places where an effective vaccination campaign has taken place, the risk of severe repercussions of the disease has decreased.

It is therefore important to continue the effort to immunize the general population as much as possible. This calls for a manifold commitment on the personal, political and international levels. First, on the personal level. Each of us has a responsibility to care for ourself and our health, and this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation. Sadly, we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides. Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts. Every ideological statement severs the bond of human reason with the objective reality of things. The pandemic, on the other hand, urges us to adopt a sort of “reality therapy” that makes us confront the problem head on and adopt suitable remedies to resolve it. Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.

A political commitment is thus needed to pursue the good of the general population through measures of prevention and immunization that also engage citizens so that they can feel involved and responsible, thanks to a clear discussion of the problems and the appropriate means of addressing them. The lack of resolute decision-making and clear communication generates confusion, creates mistrust and undermines social cohesion, fueling new tensions. The result is a “social relativism” detrimental to harmony and unity.

In the end, a comprehensive commitment on the part of the international community is necessary, so that the entire world population can have equal access to essential medical care and vaccines. We can only note with regret that, for large areas of the world, universal access to health care remains an illusion. At this grave moment in the life of humanity, I reiterate my appeal that governments and concerned private entities demonstrate a sense of responsibility, developing a coordinated response at every level (local, national, regional, global), through new models of solidarity and tools to strengthen the capabilities of those countries in greatest need. In particular, I would urge all states, who are working to establish an international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response under the aegis of the World Health Organization, to adopt a policy of generous sharing as a key principle to guarantee everyone access to diagnostic tools, vaccines and drugs. Likewise, it is appropriate that institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization adapt their legal instruments lest monopolistic rules constitute further obstacles to production and to an organized and consistent access to healthcare on a global level.

Dear Ambassadors,

Last year, thanks also to the lessening of the restrictions put in place in 2020, I had occasion to receive many Heads of State and Governments, as well as various civil and religious authorities.

Among those many meetings, I would like to mention that of 1 July 2021, devoted to reflection and prayer for Lebanon. To the beloved Lebanese people, who are working to find a solution to the economic and political crisis that has gripped the nation, I wish today to renew my closeness and my prayers. At the same time, I trust that necessary reforms and the support of the international community will help the country to persevere in its proper identity as a model of peaceful coexistence and brotherhood among the different religions.

In the course of 2021, I was also able to resume my Apostolic Journeys. In March, I had the joy of travelling to Iraq. Providence willed this, as a sign of hope after years of war and terrorism. The Iraqi people have the right to regain their dignity and to live in peace. Their religious and cultural roots go back thousands of years: Mesopotamia is a cradle of civilization; it is from there that God called Abraham to inaugurate the history of salvation.

In September, I travelled to Budapest for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress, and thereafter to Slovakia. It was an opportunity for me to meet with the Catholic faithful and Christians of other confessions, and to dialogue with the Jewish community. I likewise travelled to Cyprus and Greece, a Journey that remains vivid in my memory. That visit allowed me to deepen ties with our Orthodox brothers and to experience the fraternity existing between the various Christian confessions.

A very moving part of that Journey was my visit to the island of Lesbos, where I was able to see at first hand the generosity of all those working to provide hospitality and assistance to migrants, but above all, to see the faces of the many children and adults who are guests of these centres of hospitality. Their eyes spoke of the effort of their journey, their fear of an uncertain future, their sorrow for the loved ones they left behind and their nostalgia for the homeland they were forced to depart. Before those faces, we cannot be indifferent or hide behind walls and barbed wires under the pretext of defending security or a style of life. This we cannot do.

Consequently, I thank all those individuals and governments working to ensure that migrants are welcomed and protected, and to support their human promotion and integration in the countries that have received them. I am aware of the difficulties that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people. No one can be asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely.

There is a need to overcome indifference and to reject the idea that migrants are a problem for others. The results of this approach are evident in the dehumanization of those migrants concentrated in hotspots where they end up as easy prey to organized crime and human traffickers, or engage in desperate attempts to escape that at times end in death. Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of “bargaining commodity” that deprives them of their dignity.

Here I would like to renew my gratitude to the Italian authorities, thanks to whom several persons were able to come with me to Rome from Cyprus and Greece. This was a simple yet meaningful gesture. To the Italian people, who suffered greatly at the beginning of the pandemic, but who have also shown encouraging signs of recovery, I express my heartfelt hope that they will always maintain their characteristic spirit of generosity, openness and solidarity.

At the same time, I consider it essential that the European Union arrive at internal cohesion in handling migration movements, just as it did in dealing with the effects of the pandemic. There is a need to adopt a coherent and comprehensive system for coordinating policies on migration and asylum, with a view to sharing responsibility for the reception of migrants, the review of requests for asylum, and the redistribution and integration of those who can be accepted. The capacity to negotiate and discover shared solutions is one of the strong points of the European Union; it represents a sound model for a farsighted approach to the global challenges before us.

Nonetheless, the migration issue does not regard Europe alone, even though it is especially affected by waves of migrants coming from Africa and from Asia. In recent years, we have witnessed, among others, an exodus of Syrian refugees and, more recently, the many people who have fled Afghanistan. Nor can we overlook the massive migration movements on the American continent, which press upon the border between Mexico and the United States of America. Many of those migrants are Haitians fleeing the tragedies that have struck their country in recent years.

The issue of migration, together with the pandemic and climate change, has clearly demonstrated that we cannot be saved alone and by ourselves: the great challenges of our time are all global. It is thus troubling that, alongside the greater interconnection of problems, we are seeing a growing fragmentation of solutions. It is not uncommon to encounter unwillingness to open windows of dialogue and spaces of fraternity; this only fuels further tensions and divisions, as well as a generalized feeling of uncertainty and instability. What is needed instead is a recovery of our sense of shared identity as a single human family. The alternative can only be growing isolation, marked by a reciprocal rejection and refusal that further endangers multilateralism, the diplomatic style that has characterized international relations from the end of the Second World War to the present time.

For some time now, multilateral diplomacy has been experiencing a crisis of trust, due to the reduced credibility of social, governmental and intergovernmental systems. Important resolutions, declarations and decisions are frequently made without a genuine process of negotiation in which all countries have a say. This imbalance, now dramatically evident, has generated disaffection towards international agencies on the part of many states; it also weakens the multilateral system as a whole, with the result that it becomes less and less effective in confronting global challenges.

The diminished effectiveness of many international organizations is also due to their members entertaining differing visions of the ends they wish to pursue. Not infrequently, the centre of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization. As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples. As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the “cancel culture” invading many circles and public institutions. Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various sensibilities. A kind of dangerous “one-track thinking” [pensée unique] is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in the light of a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today.

Multilateral diplomacy is thus called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various peoples. In this way, it will regain credibility and effectiveness in facing the challenges to come, which will require humanity to join together as one great family that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common solutions for the good of all. This calls for reciprocal trust and willingness to dialogue; it entails “listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to agreement and walking together”. Indeed, “dialogue is the best way to realize what ought always to be affirmed and respected apart from any ephemeral consensus”. Nor should we overlook “the existence of certain enduring values”. Those are not always easy to discern, but their acceptance “makes for a robust and solid social ethics. Once those fundamental values are adopted through dialogue and consensus, we realize that they rise above consensus”. Here I wish to mention in particular the right to life, from conception to its natural end, and the right to religious freedom.

In this regard, in recent years we have seen a growing collective awareness of the urgent need to care for our common home, which is suffering from the constant and indiscriminate exploitation of its resources. Here I think especially of the Philippines, struck in these last weeks by a devastating typhoon, and of other nations in the Pacific, made vulnerable by the negative effects of climate change, which endanger the lives of their inhabitants, most of whom are dependent on agriculture, fishing and natural resources.

Precisely this realization should impel the international community as a whole to discover and implement common solutions. None may consider themselves exempt from this effort, since all of us are involved and affected in equal measure. At the recent COP26 in Glasgow, several steps were made in the right direction, even though they were rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem to be faced. The road to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is complex and appears to be long, while the time at our disposal is shorter and shorter. Much still remains to be done, and so 2022 will be another fundamental year for verifying to what extent and in what ways the decisions taken in Glasgow can and should be further consolidated in view of COP27, planned for Egypt next November.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Dialogue and fraternity are two essential focal points in our efforts to overcome the crisis of the present moment. Yet “despite numerous efforts aimed at constructive dialogue between nations, the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying”. The entire international community must address the urgent need to find solutions to endless conflicts that at times appear as true proxy wars.

I think first of Syria, where the country’s rebirth does not yet clearly appear on the horizon. Even today, the Syrian people mourn their dead and the loss of everything, and continue to hope for a better future. Political and constitutional reforms are required for the country to be reborn, but the imposition of sanctions should not strike directly at everyday life, in order to provide a glimmer of hope to the general populace, increasingly caught in the grip of poverty.

Nor can we overlook the conflict in Yemen, a human tragedy that has gone on for years, silently, far from the spotlight of the media and with a certain indifference on the part of the international community, even as it continues to claim numerous civil victims, particularly women and children.

In the past year, no steps forward were made in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. I would truly like to see these two peoples rebuild mutual trust and resume speaking directly to each other, in order to reach the point where they can live in two states, side by side, in peace and security, without hatred and resentment, but the healing born of mutual forgiveness.

Other sources of concern are the institutional tensions in Libya, the episodes of violence by international terrorism in the Sahel region, and the internal conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where there is need “to find once again the path of reconciliation and peace through a forthright encounter that places the needs of the people above all else”.

Profound situations of inequality and injustice, endemic corruption and various forms of poverty that offend the dignity of persons also continue to fuel social conflicts on the American continent, where growing polarization is not helping to resolve the real and pressing problems of its people, especially those who are most poor and vulnerable.

Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine and in the southern Caucasus, and the outbreak of new crises can be avoided in the Balkans, primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dialogue and fraternity are all the more urgently needed for dealing wisely and effectively with the crisis which for almost a year now has affected Myanmar; its streets, once places of encounter, are now the scene of fighting that does not spare even houses of prayer.

Naturally, these conflicts are exacerbated by the abundance of weapons on hand and the unscrupulousness of those who make every effort to supply them. At times, we deceive ourselves into thinking that these weapons serve to dissuade potential aggressors. History and, sadly, even daily news reports, make it clear that this is not the case. Those who possess weapons will eventually use them, since as Saint Paul VI observed, “a person cannot love with offensive weapons in his hands”. Furthermore, “When we yield to the logic of arms and distance ourselves from the practice of dialogue, we forget to our detriment that, even before causing victims and ruination, weapons can create nightmares”. Today these concerns have become even more real, if we consider the availability and employment of autonomous weapon systems that can have terrible and unforeseen consequences, and should be subject to the responsibility of the international community.

Among the weapons humanity has produced, nuclear arms are of particular concern. At the end of December last, the Tenth Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was to meet in New York in these days, was once again postponed due to the pandemic. A world free of nuclear arms is possible and necessary. I therefore express my hope that the international community will view that Conference as an opportunity to take a significant step in this direction. The Holy See continues steadfastly to maintain that in the twenty-first century nuclear arms are an inadequate and inappropriate means of responding to security threats, and that possession of them is immoral. Their production diverts resources from integral human development and their employment not only has catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences, but also threatens the very existence of humanity.

The Holy See likewise considers it important that the resumption of negotiations in Vienna on the nuclear accord with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) achieve positive results, in order to guarantee a more secure and fraternal world.

Dear Ambassadors!

In my Message for the World Day of Peace celebrated on 1 January last, I sought to highlight several factors that I consider essential for promoting a culture of dialogue and fraternity.

Education holds a special place, since it trains the younger generation, the future and hope of the world. Education is in fact the primary vehicle of integral human development, for it makes individuals free and responsible. The educational process is slow and laborious, and can lead at times to discouragement, but we can never abandon it. It is an outstanding expression of dialogue, for no true education can lack a dialogical structure. Education likewise gives rise to culture and builds bridges of encounter between peoples. The Holy See wished to stress the importance of education also by its participation in Expo 2021 in Dubai, with a pavilion inspired by the theme of the Expo: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.

The Catholic Church has always recognized and valued the role of education in the spiritual, moral and social growth of the young. It pains me, then, to acknowledge that in different educational settings – parishes and schools – the abuse of minors has occurred, resulting in serious psychological and spiritual consequences for those who experienced them. These are crimes, and they call for a firm resolve to investigate them fully, examining each case to ascertain responsibility, to ensure justice to the victims and to prevent similar atrocities from taking place in the future.

Despite the gravity of such acts, no society can ever abdicate its responsibility for education. Yet, regrettably, state budgets often allocate few resources for education, which tends to be viewed as an expense, instead of the best possible investment for the future.

The pandemic prevented many young people from attending school, to the detriment of their personal and social development. Modern technology enabled many young people to take refuge in virtual realities that create strong psychological and emotional links but isolate them from others and the world around them, radically modifying social relationships. In making this point, I in no way intend to deny the usefulness of technology and its products, which make it possible for us to connect with one another easily and quickly, but I do appeal urgently that we be watchful lest these instruments substitute for true human relationships at the interpersonal, familial, social and international levels. If we learn to isolate ourselves at an early age, it will later prove more difficult to build bridges of fraternity and peace. In a world where there is just “me”, it is difficult to make room for “us”.

The second thing that I would like to mention briefly is labour, “an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace. Labour is an expression of ourselves and our gifts, but also of our commitment, self-investment and cooperation with others, since we always work with or for someone else. Seen in this clearly social perspective, the workplace enables us to learn to make our contribution towards a more habitable and beautiful world”.

We have seen that the pandemic has sorely tested the global economy, with serious repercussions on those families and workers who experienced situations of psychological distress even before the onset of the economic troubles. This has further highlighted persistent inequalities in various social and economic sectors. Here we can include access to clean water, food, education and medical care. The number of people falling under the category of extreme poverty has shown a marked increase. In addition, the health crisis forced many workers to change professions, and in some cases forced them to enter the underground economy, causing them to lose the social protections provided for in many countries.

In this context, we see even more clearly the importance of labour, since economic development cannot exist without it, nor can it be thought that modern technology can replace the surplus value of human labour. Human labour provides an opportunity for the discovery of our personal dignity, for encounter with others and for human growth; it is a privileged means whereby each person participates actively in the common good and offers a concrete contribution to peace. Here too, greater cooperation is needed among all actors on the local, national, regional and global levels, especially in the short term, given the challenges posed by the desired ecological conversion. The coming years will be a time of opportunity for developing new services and enterprises, adapting existing ones, increasing access to dignified work and devising new means of ensuring respect for human rights and adequate levels of remuneration and social protection.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has “plans for [our] welfare and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” (29:11). We should be unafraid, then, to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another. The gift of peace is “contagious”; it radiates from the hearts of those who long for it and aspire to share it, and spreads throughout the whole world. To each of you, your families and the peoples you represent, I renew my blessing and offer my heartfelt good wishes for a year of serenity and peace.

Thank you!