Pope Francis has strong words for a country that is poised to allow euthanasia: Where are you sailing?
Urging Lisbon, and from there, all of Europe, to do better, the Pope says that defending life is a priority because it is “menaced by a creeping utilitarianism that uses life and discards it – a culture that discards life.”
The Pope’s words on his first day in Portugal for World Youth Day, addressed to government authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps, come as Portugal in near losing its battle against euthanasia.
As reported here, Portugal’s parliament voted in May to make the country the fourth nation in Europe to allow euthanasia. The parliament voted to override the last of the four vetoes given by Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. It is still unclear if the law will hold.
I think of so many unborn children, and older persons who are abandoned, of the great challenge of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating those who come from afar and knock on our doors, and the isolation felt by so many families that find it hard to bring children into the world and raise them.
Here too, we might ask: “Where are you sailing, Europe and the West, with the discarding of the elderly, walls of barbed wire, massive numbers of deaths at sea and empty cradles? Where are you sailing? Where are you sailing if, before life’s ills, you offer hasty but mistaken remedies: like easy access to death, a convenient answer that seems ‘sweet’ but is in fact more bitter than the waters of the sea?” I am thinking here of many advanced laws concerning euthanasia.
Too divided to face worldwide problems
Pope Francis, who once taught literature as a Jesuit priest, referred to local poetry and literature in his address. He noted Lisbon’s position on the ocean, and how it was once thought to be the end of the world.
Lisbon, as an ocean city, thus reminds us of the importance of the whole, to think of borders as places of contact, not as boundaries that separate. Today we realize that the great questions facing us are global, yet we often find it hard to respond to them precisely because, faced with common problems, our world is divided, or, to say the very least, insufficiently cohesive, incapable of confronting together what threatens us all. Planetary injustice, wars, climate and migration crises: these seem to run faster than our ability, and often our will, to confront these challenges in a united way.
Lisbon can suggest a different path, the Pope said.
“It is my hope that World Youth Day may be, for the ‘Old Continent’ – we can say the ‘Elder Continent’ – an impulse towards universal openness, an impulse that makes it younger. For the world needs Europe, the true Europe,” he said.
Signs of hope
The Pope spoke of how much hope is represented by the thousands of young people on Lisbon’s streets.
They are taking to the streets, not to cry out in anger but to share the hope of the Gospel, the hope of life. At a time when we are witnessing on many sides a climate of protest and unrest, a fertile terrain for forms of populism and conspiracy theories, World Youth Day represents a chance to build together. It revives our desire to accomplish something new and different, to put out into the deep and to set sail together towards the future.
3 places to build
He went on to specify three “construction sites of hope”
“Let us resolve, with creativity, to build together,” Francis urged: “I would like to suggest three construction sites of hope in which all of us can work together: the environment, the future, and fraternity.”
- “The ocean reminds us that human life is meant to be an integrated part of an environment greater than ourselves, one that must be protected and watched over with care and concern for the sake of future generations. How can we claim to believe in young people, if we do not give them healthy spaces in which to build the future?”
- Young people are the future. Yet they encounter much that is disheartening: lack of jobs, the dizzying pace of contemporary life, hikes in the cost of living, the difficulty of finding housing and, even more disturbing, the fear of forming families and bringing children into the world. In Europe and, more generally, in the West, we are witnessing a decline in the demographic curve: progress seems to be measured by developments in technology and personal comfort, whereas the future calls for reversing the fall in the birth rate and the weakening of the will to live. A healthy politics can accomplish much in this regard; it can be a generator of hope. …
- We need to resume a dialogue between young and old. This is encouraged by that sense of saudade, which in the Portuguese language expresses a kind of nostalgia, a yearning for an absent good that is born of contact with our roots. The young must find their roots in the elders.
- How beautiful it is to realize that we are brothers and sisters and to pursue the common good, leaving behind our conflicts and differing viewpoints! Here too, we can see an example in those young people who, with their pleas for peace and their thirst for life, impel us to break down the walls of separation erected in the name of different opinions and creeds. I have come to see how many young people long to draw closer to others …