The sanctity of human life is a fundamental principle in the Christian tradition, a doctrine powerfully upheld by various popes and saints.
Throughout history, Popes have been vocal advocates for the intrinsic value and dignity of human life.
Pope John Paul II: In “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life), he emphasized the Church’s stance: “Every human life, from the moment of conception until death, is sacred because the human person has been willed for its own sake in the image and likeness of the living and holy God.”
Pope Francis: Known for his focus on mercy, Pope Francis has often highlighted the importance of respecting all life, saying, “Every life counts: from the beginning to the end, from conception to natural death.”
Pope Benedict XVI: In his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth), Benedict XVI spoke about the importance of respecting life as part of a broader ethic of love and charity: “Openness to life is at the centre of true development.”
Pope Paul VI: In his encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” he addressed the issues of human life and the family, emphasizing that “Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact.”
Saints throughout the ages have provided deep insights into the respect for human life.
Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata: Her life’s work with the poor and dying in Calcutta was a living testament to her belief in the dignity of every human life. She saw Christ in every individual, regardless of their circumstances, and believed strongly in serving the “poorest of the poor.”
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A pediatrician and mother, Saint Gianna’s decision to risk her life for her unborn child during a complicated pregnancy exemplifies her commitment to the Catholic teaching on the value of human life. Her sacrifice is often cited in discussions about the ethics of abortion and maternal care.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe: His voluntary sacrifice in Auschwitz, offering his life in place of a stranger, demonstrates the ultimate act of valuing human life and dignity. Kolbe’s martyrdom is an extreme example of the Christian belief in the sanctity of life and the call to selfless love.
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: Known for her devotion to the sick and the poor, Saint Elizabeth’s life was a testament to the belief that caring for the least among us is a way of honoring the sanctity of life. Her service to the destitute and sick was rooted in her deep respect for human dignity.
Saint John Paul II: Before becoming Pope, Karol Wojtyła’s philosophical works delved into personalism, a philosophy that emphasizes the dignity and worth of each individual. This perspective profoundly influenced his papal teachings on the value of human life.
Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross: These mystics of the Church, through their spiritual writings, highlight the value and dignity of the human soul. Their works suggest that each individual, as a creation of God, holds an inherent worth beyond measure.
Saint Francis of Assisi: Known for his love of all creation, Saint Francis exemplified a deep reverence for life in all its forms. His approach to life, seeing it as a manifestation of God’s creation, underscores the interconnectedness of all beings and the respect due to each.
In the modern world, these teachings offer a moral compass on issues such as abortion. The consistent message from these figures is the unassailable worth of human life and the responsibility to protect and cherish it.