Evangelium Vitae Day is the annual Vatican celebration that promotes the respect and dignity of human life. It is a celebration that began a few years ago with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that featured an annual papal Mass for pro-life leaders. This year on June 15th, it will offer an opportunity for the faithful from all around the world, who are aged, sick, dying, physically and mentally challenged and those who suffer in any way, to gather at St. Peter's Square with the Holy Father Pope Francis, in a communal witness to the sacred value of life.
The day celebrating Evangelium Vitae has been given the title, "Believing May They Have LIfe." In an article from the Vatican News web site entitled, Worldwide Eucharistic Adoration and Evangelium Vitae Day, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, stated that "We have given it this name to testify to the grand theme that revolves around the Church's commitment to the promotion, respect, and dignity of human life." The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization is a newly formed council whose aim is to encourage a reawakening of the faith in traditionally Christian countries whose faith has waned.
On June 15th, in addition to the catechesis on Evangelium Vitae for various language groups, Holy Mass in several languages, a pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. Peter, Eucharistic Adoration, the Sacrament of Penance, candlelight procession and prayer vigil, there will be an English language only event, an Educational Conference: The Gospel of Life and the New Evangelization. This conference will feature a keynote address by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis and current Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. There will be a panel discussion led by two leading Catholic authors and intellectuals, Francis Beckwith author and Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies and Resident scholar in the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, and Robert Royal, author and the President of the Faith and Reason Institute, Graduate Dean at the Catholic Distance University. The moderator of the panel will be Douglas Sylva, Senior Fellow and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. On Sunday, June 16th this celebration of life will conclude with the Holy Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square. For a detailed list of the events during this upcoming weekend, please click on the following link: Day Celebrating The Evangelium Vitae.
The term Evangelium Vitae is Latin, for the Gospel of Life, a title given to a document, an encyclical written by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1995, which this annual Vatican celebration is based on. Today, the encyclical still retains its relevance and importance in Canada's ever increasingly secularized society. At the time Blessed Pope John Paul II had written and published the aforementioned encyclical, negative societal trends in Canada had established a level of desensitization and apathy toward the value and inviolability of human life. What resulted was the increased development of a "culture of death," that manifested itself in the Canadian government's refusal to debate the abortion issue in parliament, the 1988 Morgantaler challenge and reinterpretation of the Canadian Constitution that resulted in the removal of all legal barriers to abortion, acceptance from medical organizations and associations and a general widespread disrespect for the dignity of the human person. Part of Blessed Pope John Paul II's response to what was happening in Canada and throughout the world, was the publication of Evangelium Vitae, in which he appealed to every individual:
The present Encyclical, the fruit of the cooperation of the Episcopate of every country of the world, is therefore meant to be a precise and vigorous reaffirmation of the value of human life and its inviolability, and at the same time a pressing appeal addressed to each and every person, in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness! (EV, 5)In preparing for this blog post and Evangelium Vitae Day, I reread Evangelium Vitae again. It was a rediscovery of the truths about life, a reminder of the many threats that still exist in Canadian society and throughout the world. This encyclical continues to be a rich source of inspiration that has strengthened my resolve to do my part in defence and promotion of life. Reading it and sharing some of the details contained within, is part of my response to our late pontiff's appeal! I respectfully encourage anyone who is serious about any number of the threats to the value and inviolability of human life, to read or reread the Gospel of Life.