Views from Rome - 02

Pope Francis’Letter to the Pontifical Academy for Life

The Letter of Pope Francis to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia [Humana Communitas, 15 January 2019] wants to signal a “new phase of the mission” (n. 13) of the Pontifical Academy for Life [PAV]. The Encyclical Laudato Si, which has brought to light “the state of emergency existing in our relationship with the history of the earth and its peoples” (n.2) represents the Magna Carta for the redefinition of the role of the PAV. 

The Pope affirms that the new Academy for Life must not limit itself to the defense of human life from conception to natural death, but must consider this human life in a socio-political context, and also in a fuller “ecological” context, which links man to nature as one single organism.

 “A new universal ethical perspective, attentive to the themes of creation and human life, is the objective we ought to aim for on the cultural level.” There is a need to pay attention, “with an eye to emerging issues and challenges that can serve as an opportunity for us to grow in the faith, to understand it more deeply and to communicate it more effectively to the people of our time (n. 8). “The prospect of a global bioethics, with a broad vision and a concern for the impact of the environment on life and health, offers a significant opportunity for strengthening the new covenant between the Gospel and creation” (n. 10). 

The new PAV ought to concern itself with problems such as “lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care,” through “a global approach” of the “diverse cultures and societies that, in today’s world, are in increasingly close contact” (n. 11). 

The right to life becomes, in a single word, “the right to environment.” Furthermore, for Pope Francis, “fraternity remains the unkept promise of modernity” and represents “the new frontier of Christianity” (p. 13). 

The Pope therefore invites the new Academy for Life to not be afraid “to advance arguments and formulations that can serve as a basis for intercultural and interreligious, as well as interdisciplinary, exchanges” (n. 11). 

The transformation of the PAV into a new socio-ecological academy confirms the wisdom of the decision of some of its former members to create the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, in order to remain faithful to the objectives which John Paul II had assigned to this praiseworthy institution.