A culture of life

I have always known that for the Church and for civil society young people constitute the hope of our future. But over the years of my ministry, especially through the celebration of events such as this one, that hope has been confirmed and strengthened again and again. It has been the young people themselves who have taught me to have ever new and ever greater confidence. It is not just that the young people of today are the adults of the future who will step into our shoes and carry on the human adventure. No, the longing present in every heart for a full and free life that is worthy of the human person is particularly strong in them. Certainly, false answers to this longing abound, and humanity is far from being a happy and harmonious family. But so many young people in all societies refuse to descend into selfishness and superficiality. They refuse to relinquish responsibility. That refusal is a beacon of hope.

For believers, commitment to the spiritual and moral renewal which society needs is a gift of the Spirit of the Lord who fills the whole earth, for it is the Spirit who offers man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny (Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). This has been particularly evident in the prayer-filled attitude of the young people gathered here. As a result, they go away more committed to the victory of the culture of life over the culture of death. The culture of life means respect for nature and protection of God’s work of creation. In a special way it means respect for human life from the first moment of conception until its natural end. A genuine culture of life is all the more essential when – as I have written in the social encyclical Centesimus annus (39) – “human ingenuity seems to be directed more towards limiting, suppressing or destroying the sources of life – including recourse to abortion, which unfortunately is so widespread in the world – than towards defending and opening up the possibilities of life.”

A culture of life means service to the underprivileged, the poor and the oppressed, because justice and freedom are inseparable and exist only if they exist for everyone. The culture of life means thanking God every day for his gift of life, for our worth and dignity as human beings, and for the friendship and fellowship he offers us as we make our pilgrim way towards our eternal destiny. – speech at Denver International Airport (8/15/93)

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