Kaname Shimamoto, Archbishop of Nagasaki

3 January, 1996

The Gospel message which God brought to the world through Jesus Christ, is the Good News about life. The God who admonished mankind through Moses: " Therefore, choose life, that you and your descendants may live" (Dt 30: 19), sent His only Begotten Son into the world as " The Word of Life." " The Word of Life" , Jesus Christ become man, announced that " I am the life," and revealed that the reason why He became man is this: " I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10: 10). And while on earth, by bringing the dead back to life, and by healing multitudes of the sick and ailing, He showed that He is indeed " The Word of Life" and that the thoughts of God toward men are not inclined toward death but toward life.

By no means can we say that the present day viewpoint toward the " Gospel of Life" is favorable. Quite to the contrary, an attitude of " destruction of life" describes the situation more accurately. For it is a fact that a large a number of countries have legalized abortion and euthanasia, and have fashioned a cultural environment conducive to these practices. To oppose this current attitude of hostility toward life Pope John Paul II published the Encyclical Letter " The Gospel of Life" in order to restore a recognition of the sacredness and inviolability of human life, and to rescue human society from the culture of death; relying upon God he has invoked the power of papal infallibility.

In this Encyclical the Pope confronts directly those who rob the lives of the people who are most weak and defenseless, the unborn and the aged; he quotes and addresses to them the words which the Lord once spoke to Cain who killed Abel: " What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground" (Gen 4: 10). Cain had committed murder by killing his own brother. Abortion is an abominable sin by which a parent kills her own child.

No matter what kind of law one claims to be following, abortion is the direct and willful killing of what is a human being in the beginning stages of life, that is, from the moment of conception until the time of birth. The unborn child's life is weak and defenseless. Therefore God has chosen the womb of its mother as the safest place for it; has entrusted its life to this place for its development. But now there are mothers who disregard the life of the unborn child. And therein lies the abominable nature of the deed of abortion.

" The fetus isn't a human being yet" some people claim in an attempt to justify abortion. But it is a fact that a human life has begun at the very moment of conception. And that life is not the life of its mother nor that of its father. The life is that of the fetus itself. " Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; and I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jer 1: 5). This human being in the womb of the mother is addressed as a " you," as a human person. And it is a person who is segregated from the mother, who is an independent personal being. He is not a part of the mother's body. Therefore the Pope proclaims this message, basing himself upon such words of the Lord and upon the tradition of the Church: " I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder." That is because abortion is the deliberate deed, performed with aforethought, of killing a human being who is innocent.

Today there are countries which have established laws which approve abortion. That is an abuse of legal powers, and has no validity binding in conscience. The power of a government to make laws must be employed to recognize the various innate rights of individuals and social groups, to foster them, and to promote their development; at the very core of various human rights is what is basic to all of them, namely " the right to live; " a law which attacks this right is empty, is only an abuse. A legislated law receives its potency to be legally binding in the first place only if it is rooted in the moral law.

We are Christians who believe in " The Gospel of Life." By this faith we have become " The People of Life." The Lord has sent us forth to be apostles of " The Gospel of Life." We are to be a people who proclaim and announce the sacredness of life, who communicate in life. Always and everywhere, let us choose life.