by Steven Ertelt
January 27, 2005
The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — In a special Lenten message to Catholics worldwide, Pope John Paul II called elderly people a "resource" and condemned euthanasia and assisted suicide. As the pontiff grows older and more frail due to Parkinson’s disease, he is increasingly speaking out on controversial end-of-life issues.
The Pope said elderly people should be considered a valuable resource to society — not a burden.
"The care of the elderly, above all when they pass through difficult moments, must be of great concern to all the faithful," especially in Western countries where older people often struggle to find a place in society, the pope said in his written message.
"What would happen if the people of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness," the pope said
"Human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages," he said.
Even "in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person’s ability to be self-reliant," life is precious and a gift from God, the Catholic Church leader explained.
John Paul II said the commandment "Though shalt not kill" must always be respected from the beginning of life "to its natural end."
"It is a command that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person’s ability to be self-reliant," the pontiff wrote in the message.
Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," discussed the Pope’s message.
He said that the elderly are under varying threats, including family members who may not visit their elders or send them to a nursing home to live alone, who are too quick to hasten the death of an elderly person or to provide them proper care and attention during an illness.
The Pope brought up end-of-life issues last week in a meeting with the Netherlands ambassador.
The European nation was the first to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill adults and revelations have come up over the last two months about doctors at a hospital who say that have been euthanizing critically ill newborns for years. The Dutch government has not issued any charges in connection with the deaths.
Belgium has also legalized assisted suicide and Bishop Andre-Mutien Leonard of that country spoke at a Vatican press conference. He said pro-life people need to work together in Europe to stop the spread of the grisly practice.
"People have to be educated to vote. There has to be the desire to promote a debate and form a lobby (against euthanasia)," Bishop Leonard explained.
He also urged expansion of palliative care for the elderly and disabled to make the desire for ending one’s life less prevalent.