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Pope Francis urges UK and Irish youth to ‘combat the culture of death’

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Pope Francis urged youth across the UK and Ireland on Tuesday to “combat the culture of death … by working to ensure adequate legal protection for the fundamental human right to life.”

The message, which marks the nations’ annual Day for Life on July 27, was sent on the pope’s behalf by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin. It states:

As the Church in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales celebrates the 2014 Day for Life, the Holy Father expresses his confidence that this annual witness to the sanctity of God’s gift of life will inspire the faithful, and young Catholics in particular, to combat the culture of death, not only by working to ensure adequate legal protection for the fundamental human right to life, but also by seeking to bring the merciful love of Christ as a life-giving balm to those troubling “new forms of poverty and vulnerability” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 210) which are increasingly evident in contemporary society.

To all involved in the Day for Life celebrations, His Holiness imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

The Catholic Church in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland’s annual Day for Life is dedicated to raising awareness about the meaning and value of human life at every stage from conception to natural death. Parishes in England and Wales will take up a special collection to support the work of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre and other life-related activities.

"Over half-a-million postcards have been sent to parishes and prison chaplaincies in England and Wales in readiness for Day for Life," the organizers of the event said.

The theme of this year’s Day for Life is “Protect and Cherish Life,” with the Twitter hashtag #livelife.

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The organizers explain that the day "invites young people in particular to get involved in caring for, nurturing and protecting life at every stage and in every condition."

In this year’s bishops' message for the Day for Life the bishops of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales said they intend to "follow in the footsteps of Pope Francis" who at World Youth Day in Rio last year said, “young hearts want to build a better world.”

The bishops recalled that the Pope invited youth to be “protagonists of transformation” and urged them not to be mere “observers of life," but to get involved.

"Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did,” the Pope said in Rio.

"We all know heroic young people who are getting involved in the messiness of life," the bishops' message says, and recounts the example of a young man from Ireland who, though stricken with cancer, championed and promoted the #livelife message.

"Last year, Donal Walsh, an extraordinary 16-year-old from Kerry in Ireland, suffering from terminal cancer, taught us how to value every second of life and to show gratitude for all that we can so easily take for granted," the bishops wrote.

"Donal had 'wanted to live, to play for Munster, to travel the whole world to raise children and die when I'm 100' and instead of reacting with anger and despair at the news of his cancer, he embraced life to promote his anti-suicide #Livelife message. He wrote and spoke widely in the media about young people and suicide – urging teenagers to 'appreciate what you have, know that there are always other options and help is always there.' His #Livelife message has touched many hearts and changed lives."

"Every one of us, young and old alike can play our part in the promotion of life. Our every thought, word or action can promote or extinguish life – we all have a valuable contribution to make," the bishops' message states, so "let’s all be builders of a better world and protect life."

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