ROME, October 1, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A former abortionist’s far-fetched dream of surrendering the medical instruments with which he had once performed abortions to Pope Francis became a reality recently, when, to his astonishment, Dr. Antonio Oriente found himself face to face with the pontiff.

In a testimony posted to Facebook, Dr. Antonio Oriente expresses his surprise at the encounter, explaining that he had originally decided not to go to Rome for a conference of gynecologists to which he was invited, because of a father-in-law in “grave health” and the fact that there was no guarantee he could even see the pope personally. But at the last minute, he changed his mind. 

Oriente, the vice president and founder of the Associazione Italiana Ginecologi Ostetrici Cattolici (AIGOC), told ACI Presna, “I used to do abortions before my conversion, and I had the desire to entrust the [instruments] to the Holy Father, after I had failed to do it with John Paul II nor with Benedict XVI.” 

A fellow member of AIGOC had confirmed that the group would be included in a papal audience for the conference, but said only a small number would be able to meet personally with the Holy Father. Of AIGOC, he said, only the president and secretary were in that number. 

“I knew I could not confer with the Pope, and that therefore my desire to give him the surgical instruments which I used as an abortionist would have been nearly impossible,” Oriente said in his testimony. But despite these reservations, and worries about bringing the instruments on a flight, Oriente decided to take the flight up from Messina to Rome, “after I prayed and asked the Lord just the same”. 

After explaining his desire to hand over his abortion instruments at an audience with Pope Francis, airport security authorities in Palermo allowed him to fly. “But in the meantime the boarding had concluded and the doors of the boarding gates were locked. But even here,” he wrote, “I prayed in my heart.” A policeman called a fellow employee, who allowed Oriente to reach the plane and board. 

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Upon arriving in Rome, more obstacles appeared, with little chance of speaking directly to the pope. But at the last possible moment, following the pope’s speech, Oriente said he told a bishop his story. This bishop, whom he did not name, spoke directly with “Padre George,” Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who brought him before the pope “immediately, without hesitation.” 

Oriente handed the package of instruments to the pope, who, he says, “gave me the mandate to evangelize the pro life [message] and to defend life itself.” 

Pope Francis, he said, told him, “This evening I will pray. This [the instruments] I have to bring with me to my room to Santa Marta.” 

“Then he laid his hands on me, and said, ‘You are blessed and fight for life.” 

Oriente said, “The instruments of death were abandoned at the foot of the successor of Peter in the world, as death is put at the feet of Jesus in favor of life.” 

Oriente told ACI Prensa that he became an abortionist for the money, but changed his mind after he married and he and his wife experienced the pain of infertility. He attributed the start of his conversion to a meeting with a Christian couple who invited him to a prayer meeting, “to achieve some peace”. 

Previously, he said, God had seemed like nothing more than an “obligation,” but at this meeting he encountered a merciful God. 

Sitting one day before the crucifix, he said, he wrote a letter to the Lord, “What I call a spiritual Testament: never more death until death.” 

“What kind of son am I that I am a killer to the children of others? I abandon the culture of death and embrace life.”

AIGOC, based at the famed Gemelli Catholic hospital in Rome, was formed in 2009 in order to make “a preferential choice to improving the life and health of mothers and children, either born or unborn, through new service initiatives, training, research and publicity intended to combat abortion in its varied forms, maternal mortality and perinatal, obstetric conditions”. 

A member of the group, Dr. Giuseppe Noia, vice president of the Centre for Foetal Diagnosis and Therapy at the Gemelli, told the Catholic newspaper Avvenire that AIGOC “will fit into the contemporary cultural debate by proposing a language based on scientific data and philosophical foundations, legal and anthropological, to open up space for reflection on the dignity of the human person acceptable to believers and non-believers, because it is founded on evidence.” 

Dr. Noia said the Association expects to see “a great cultural challenge in the current educational crisis.” 

The aim is not to “to stir up a banner of victory or ideological supremacy, but to do a service of clarification of thought and promotion of discernment. Not to build walls or barriers of misunderstanding but to build bridges of sharing, with the aim to be more aware and more free and so reclaim the true meaning of humanity.” 

Pro-abortion organisations are increasingly frustrated as the number of doctors and other medical professionals willing to participate in abortion goes down in Italy. In November, 2011 the Free Association of Italian Gynaecologists for the Application of Law 194 (Italy's law legalization abortion), met in Rome for its first national convention, and issued a statement that it is because “almost all new doctors employed make a conscientious objection.”

Government statistics from 2011 said that throughout the country, 70.7 per cent of gynecologists are conscientious objectors; 51.7 per cent of anesthesiologists, and 44.4 per cent of all nurses, also refuse. 

Responding to LAIGA’s claims, Dr. Noia said that the choice of the majority of medical objectors was “formed by their awareness of the physical and psychological damage caused by the interruption of pregnancy”. 

“They call it therapeutic abortion, but killing a fetus is not a therapy. Women who have had abortions, in fact, often fall into depression and are seven times more likely to commit suicide than others.”

Noia added, “Today, the doctor seems to want to regain possession of his identity: a professional in the service of life and not of death.”