Cardinal O'Brien's Easter Message.
In his Easter Sunday Homily to be delivered in St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh on Sunday 27 March, Cardinal Keith O'Brien claims society has lost sight of the sacred nature of human life.
He draws attention to threats to life, spanning; life unborn, life unfulfilled and life usurped. He describes this week's Parliamentary report on embryo research as a "development which would lead to even more destruction of human life" but points out that the MP's who prepared it will shortly face the electorate and should, like all candidates, be quizzed on life issues.
Cardinal O'Brien concludes with a call for the promotion of the life issues he describes, saying;
"May we all continue to preach that Gospel of life by our words and by our actions “ as we value more and more life unborn, life unfulfilled, and life usurped in our own journeys towards life unending in the company of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ."
Note: The full text of the homily is shown below.
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EASTER MESSAGE OF CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O BRIEN
PREACHED IN ST MARY S CATHEDRAL, EDINBURGH
EASTER SUNDAY : SUNDAY 27 MARCH 2005
After our Holy Week commemoration of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, today we celebrate the glory of his Resurrection from the dead. Those who listened to the teaching of Jesus Christ while he was on earth were able to say: He said while he was still alive “ after three days I shall rise again . And those followers of his who saw the empty tomb said to one another: He has risen as he said .
The Resurrection of Christ is fundamental to our Christian belief. In believing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we also believe that we are called to a new life and called to ensure that others have the opportunity of a ˜new life also.
In his ENCYCLICAL LETTER EVANGELIUM VITAE, Pope John Paul II describes life as; a sacred reality entrusted to us, to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.
Sadly, too many of our fellow human beings fail to recognize that sacred reality and so we live today in societies where what the Pope has described as a culture of death flourishes and grows.
As long ago as 1965, the year in which I was ordained a priest for this Archdiocese, the Bishops at the Second Vatican Council in their PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD, GAUDIUM ET SPES addressed the many threats to life that existed then, when they said:
Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society ¦. they are (a) supreme dishonour to the Creator.
These prophetic words remind us of the many threats to life we face today, to:
LIFE UNBORN, LIFE UNFULFILLED AND LIFE USURPED
We think at this time of life at its most fragile “ within the womb.
At this present time there is a growing debate in our country “ not about the teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to ending abortion completely, but rather as to whether or not there should be a reduction in the time limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. It is apparent that the moral values of our entire society are called into question by the practice of abortion “ because it is permitted, our laws and medical practice conspire to debase the value of human life and contrary to all logic to allow life at its most defenceless to be attacked and destroyed.
While I appeal for the ending of all abortion, I acknowledge with Pope John Paul II that it is indeed legitimate to make an imperfect choice where the object of that choice is the preservation of the lives of unborn aged between 20 and 24 weeks and so I endorse moves to bring about such reductions.
Unborn life has only this week been subject to further threats with the publication of a controversial House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report. MP s said that gender selection and embryo experiments should be permitted “ developments which would lead to even more destruction of human life. Interestingly, five MPs did not attend the meeting where the report was passed, and have called the final report "unbalanced". I welcome their dissent and remind all that not just these five MP s, but every Member of Parliament will shortly face the electorate. The forthcoming election provides an important opportunity for all Catholics to play a part in shaping the values which will direct our political activity. I urge you all to question your prospective candidates on these issues and demand that the defence of life is placed at the top of the political agenda.
When thinking of that ˜call to new life , one cannot ever forget those who are living in conditions of severe poverty here in our own country and in many other countries of the world, especially in Africa.
We are repeatedly told that: We can make a difference . I am sure that those who support the ˜Make Poverty History Campaign in Edinburgh on 2 July 2005, will be only too ready to convince the G8 Leaders, meeting in Gleneagles in the days following, that the world s richest nations can indeed make a considerable difference to the poverty which is an indictment on our society. At a recent meeting concerning ˜poverty in our Cathedral, one of the speakers quite simply said: It s just not fair! And no one of us can say that it is fair that in the midst of our plenty, there are those who are suffering severe want and those who indeed live on the very margins of society. Our voices raised in protest will indeed show that we do indeed care, that we can indeed do something about it, and that we ask our Governments to act in our name, remembering previously made commitments to help the poorest nations of the world. Too many of our brothers and sisters in other countries HAVE life, but are unable to LIVE IT to the full. They endure the subhuman living conditions Pope Paul VI and the Bishops of that time so eloquently condemned.
A further vital concern to us here at home is that our young people make the most of their lives, that they live their lives to the full. They must not damage and demean themselves through the misuse of drugs, alcohol or the gift of human sexuality. Rather, they must grasp the chances and advantages they have and consider how they in their health and strength can mobilise to defend the cause of life for themselves and for others. We acknowledge with shame statistics regarding abortions and sexually transmitted diseases in Scotland and would hope to give a lead as a Church to those people of goodwill who are as concerned as ourselves at the present waste of young lives. In our contacts with all those involved in health policy especially sexual health policies at local and national level, it is imperative that we support strategies that are right and correct those we believe to be wrong.
Life is, of course, equally vulnerable as one approaches death. Again in recent days we have seen the case of the brain-damaged American woman Terri Schiavo whose parents have filed an emergency appeal to the US Supreme Court, as they fight to keep their daughter alive. Mrs Schiavo, had her feeding tube removed last week, and is currently dehydrating and starving to death as legal battles rage around her.
Earlier this week, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said this action, was an illicit and grave act not only on the fact that food has been taken away from her, but also on the decision that tries to legitimise such a thing."
Bishop Sgreccia added that the decision "is not euthanasia in the literal sense of the term; it is not a 'good death,' it is a death that is induced in a cruel way. It is not a medical act. It is about taking water and food away to cause death."
Again we are witnessing exactly that Culture of Death of which Pope John Paul II warned us. While the Pope himself bears daily testament to the gift of life, he provides inspiration and provokes increasing admiration in millions of people around the world as he continues to preach by his example what he has consistently taught throughout his active life “ the value of human life from its first beginnings until its natural end. He is reported as saying: Jesus did not come down from the cross . The Pope, as is seen from his previous writings, sees value in suffering “ not just suffering for its own sake, but suffering for the sake of others in the world “ prior to the glory of the Resurrection.
And it is truly in that glorious Resurrection that we will have the most precious gift of all, life unending. As Jesus said "Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11:26). Christ came that we should have life and have it in abundance. May that new life of Christ be with us now and into the future.
May we all continue to preach that Gospel of life by our words and by our actions “ as we value more and more life unborn, life unfulfilled, and life usurped in our own journeys towards life unending in the company of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ.