VATICAN, May 9, 2005 ( – On Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that the Pope of the Catholic Church does not have the authority to alter the church’s constant teaching on the sacredness of human life and thus her teachings on abortion, contraception and euthanasia.

During a Mass on the occasion of his taking possession of his bishopric of the city of Rome, Pope Benedict dismissed the false idea that a Pope may rule according to his own wishes and desires. “This authority to teach frightens many people, both within and outside the Church. They ask themselves whether it does not threaten freedom of belief, whether it is not a presumption that goes against freedom of thought. It is not so. … The Pope is not an absolute sovereign whose thoughts and will are law. Quite the contrary, the ministry of the Pope is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to His Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but constantly bind himself and the Church in obedience to God’s Word in the face of all attempts to adapt that Word or to water it down, and in the face of all forms of opportunism.”

Benedict XVI emphasized that this is what John Paul II did “when, in the face of all apparently benevolent attempts, in the face of erroneous interpretations of freedom, he unequivocally underlined the inviolability of the human being, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death. The freedom to kill is not true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces human beings to slavery.”

On this point he concluded, “The Pope is aware of being bound – in his important decisions – to the great community of the faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed during the Church’s pilgrim journey.” He has the responsibility to ensure that the Word of God “continues to be present in its greatness and to sound forth in its purity, so that it is not dismembered by constant changes in fashion.”

See the Pope’s complete homily (in Italian).