By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

VATICAN, November 21, 2007 ( – Pope Benedict XVI has again come out with strong statements condemning the culture of death and encouraging scientists, researchers, medical personnel and pastoral workers to respect the value of life in the face of growing demands to euthanize the elderly sick.

The Pope expressed his concern to participants of the 22nd international conference promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care, held last week, which focused on the pastoral care of elderly sick people.

In his address he described “today’s mentality of efficiency” which views the elderly infirm as a burden and problem for society, and added that euthanasia “appears as one of the more alarming symptoms of the culture of death that is advancing above all in prosperous societies.”

Pope Benedict has repeatedly encouraged world leaders to promote respect for life from its natural beginning as a gift from God, to its natural end, and to resist “the temptation to have recourse to the practices of shortening the life of the elderly or the sick, practices that would in fact result in forms of euthanasia.”

He emphasized that “Man’s life is a gift of God, which all of us are always called to protect. This must also involve health workers, whose specific mission is to be ‘servants of life’ in all its phases, especially in that phase marked by the fragility connected with infirmity.”

He also spoke of the role of families to care for their elderly at home, with the support and encouragement of medical professionals and pastoral workers. “In general it is opportune to do what is possible for the families themselves to welcome and with grateful affection take care of them so that the elderly who are sick can pass the last period of their life at home and prepare themselves for death in a climate of family warmth.”

In a recent address to Austrian political leaders, the Pope spoke of his determination to continue to appeal to European government authorities to defend the fundamental human right, the right to life, and to promote healthcare systems that provide proper care for the gravely ill and dying. (See coverage: Pope: “The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself” (


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