(Vatican Radio) ‘Cherishing Life – Accepting Death’: that’s the theme of the 2015 Day for Life initiative, celebrated by the Catholic Church in England and Wales on Sunday July 26th. Pope Francis this week sent a letter of support for the event, giving his blessing to all those “working in any way for the promotion of the dignity of every human person, from the moment of conception until natural death.”
Over 300.000 postcards will be distributed in Catholic parishes around the country, while the dayforlife.org website provides prayers, reflections, information and other resources to help guide individuals and families through difficult end-of-life decisions.
Auxiliary bishop of Westminster John Sherrington is in charge of life issues for the bishops conference Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the Day for Live celebration and about Pope Francis’ support for this annual initiative…
Bishop Sherrington notes that many parishioners and other people find it difficult to speak about death, therefore the bishops of England and Wales, together with the Church in Ireland and Scotland, decided to focus on the theme of accepting death and protecting human life. While we cherish life and accept treatments that will cure and heal, he says, the Church recognises there is “no obligation to pursue medical treatment when it no longer has any effect” or where “the risks or burden outweigh the likely benefits”.
Bishop Sherrington also speaks of the challenge facing the Church in Britain as Member of Parliament Robert Marris plans to introduce a new bill on assisted dying into the House of Commons on September 11th. He recalls the “very passionate” debate around Lord Falconer’s bill in parliament last summer and says we need to give testimony to the way in which people have received excellent palliative care and have been accompanied spiritually as they near death. Catholic teaching, he insists, truly protects the dignity of human life…..
The bishop also talks about the need to raise awareness around the problems of the elderly and vulnerable – particularly as he believes the assisted dying legislation would make them more vulnerable to pressure to end their lives. He notes the cards being distributed on the Day for Life feature a quote from the Pope who says: “How great a lie ...to make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!”