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Defeating the culture of death

The best way to overcome and defeat the dangerous culture of death is to give firm foundations and clear content to a culture of life that will vigorously oppose it. Although right and necesssary, it is not enough merely to expose and denounce the lethal effects of the culture of death. Rather, the inner tissue of contemporary culture must be continually regenerated, culture being understood as a conscious mentality, as convictions and actions, as the social structures that support it.

This reflection seems all the more valuable, if we consider that culture influences not only the behavior of individuals but also legislative and political decisions, which in turn facilitate cultural trends which, unfortunately, often impede the authentic renewal of society.

Culture, moreover, orients the strategies of scientific research, which today more than ever is able to offer powerful means that unfortunately are not always used for man’s true good. On the contrary, at times research in many fields even seems to turn against man. . . .

Reasoning from this perspective, I wrote in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae: “The Gospel of life is not simply a reflection, however new and profound, on human life. Nor is it merely a commandment aimed at raising awareness and bringing about significant changes in society. Still less is it an illusory promise of a better future. The Gospel of life is something concrete and personal, for it consists in the proclamation of the very person of Jesus. Jesus made himself known to the Apostle Thomas, and in him to every person, with the words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14: 6)” (n. 29).

This is a fundamental truth that the community of believers is called, today more than ever, to defend and promote. The Christian message about life, “written in the heart of every man and woman, has echoed in every conscience “from the beginning’, from the time of creation itself, in such a way that, despite the negative consequences of sin, it can also be known in its essential traits by human reason” (Evangelium vitae, n. 29).

The concept of creation is not only a splendid message of revelation, but also a sort of profound intuition of the human spirit. Likewise, the dignity of the person is not only an idea deducible from the biblical statement that man was created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator, but a concept rooted in his spiritual being, by which he shows that he is a being who transcends the world around him. The body’s claim to dignity as a “subject”, and not simply a material “object”, is the logical consequence of the biblical concept of the person. This is a unified concept of the human being, which has been taught by many currents of thought from medieval philosophy to our times. — from Address of the Holy Father to the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (March 3, 2001)



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