ROME, November 29, 2010 ( – Pope Benedict XVI opened the new Catholic liturgical year with a prayer vigil for the unborn at St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday. Pope Benedict said in a homily, on the eve of the first Sunday of Advent, that “the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and the beginning of human life are intimately connected and in harmony with each other.”

(Share how your parish participated in the pope’s Prayer Vigil for Nascent Human Life here.)

The four weeks of Advent is traditionally a time in which Catholics contemplate the coming of a divine Saviour as an infant still in his mother’s womb. “The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in an amazing way, that every human life has an incomparable, a most elevated dignity,” the pope said.

Using the words of his predecessor, John Paul II in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope Benedict urged “each and every individual” to “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life!”

Pope Benedict also thanked the worldwide pro-life movement, saying, “I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages.”

In a prayer he composed for the occasion, Benedict prayed to God to, “Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life, make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb the miraculous work of the Creator, open our hearts to generously welcoming every child that comes into life.

“Bless all families,” he continued, “sanctify the union of spouses, render fruitful their love.”

He asked God to “accompany the choices of legislative assemblies” and to guide nations to “recognise and respect the sacred nature of life, of every human life.”

Human beings, the pope said in his homily, have the right “not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will” or made into a “mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests.”

The pope said that the Church’s concern for the “weakest and poorest” naturally leads to a desire to protect the unborn, “the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences.”

“I urge the protagonists of politics, economic and social communications to do everything in their power to promote a culture which respects human life, to provide favorable conditions and support networks for the reception and development of life.”

It is man’s “unmistakable originality” as made in the image of God “endowed with intelligence and free will” that makes his life intrinsically valuable above all other creatures.

The pope said that it is not only religious belief in Jesus Christ that leads to the conclusion of the value of human life.

“Experience itself and reason,” he said, as well as modern science, “show that the human being is a subject capable of discernment, self-conscious and free, unique and irreplaceable, the summit of all earthly things, that must be recognized in his innate value and always accepted with respect and love.”

On the use of embryos in experimentation and in artificial reproduction techniques, Benedict warned against “cultural tendencies that seek to anesthetize consciences with misleading motivations.”

Meanwhile, science itself, he said, demonstrates the humanity of the embryonic child: “The coordination of biological processes, the continuity of development, the growing complexity of the organism…This is not an accumulation of biological material, but a new living being, dynamic and wonderfully ordered, a new unique human being.”

The vigil was held in union with thousands of similar events in parishes and dioceses around the world.

Read the full text of Pope Benedict’s prayer, and the homily.

Share how your parish participated in the pope’s Prayer Vigil for Nascent Human Life here.