By Tim Waggoner

ROME, June 17, 2008 ( – Bishop Elio Sgreccia, former head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has retired amidst widespread praise for his years of tireless service to the Church and the Culture of Life. The outspoken bishop is considered a champion among Catholics for his uncompromising defense of all life and the family.

After ministering to the Catholic faithful for 41 years as a priest, Sgreccia was ordained the Titular bishop of Zama Minor in January 1993. Several months earlier he had been appointed as the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

In the ensuing years Bishop Sgreccia served as the Vatican’s chief spokesman on all matters of bioethics and the culture of life, and was named president of the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope John Paul II in 2005.

During his time in service to God’s people, Sgreccia demonstrated tremendous dedication to preserving the Culture of Life. At the center of his work was always the conviction that the fight for truth and peace would be won right at the heart of society: the family.

“If family stability is weakened, the fundamental group unit of society is also weakened,” Bishop Sgreccia once said.

The bishop gained a reputation for using strong language to condemn the immorality prevalent in the culture of death and was frequently the first to comment on many controversial issues.

During a LifeSiteNews interview with the bishop earlier this year, Sgreccia spoke out against Catholic hospitals in several dioceses in North America administering the morning after pill (Plan B) to patients who claimed to be victims of rape.

“No. It is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo.  It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself),” said the bishop in the interview.

He also told a group of journalists that the world is “marching toward a self-genocide of the human race” with the irresponsible use of biotechnologies and the widespread acceptance of the culture of death.

Refusing to back down on any life related-issues, Sgreccia unhesitatingly attacked euthanasia, abortion, contraception, embryonic research and many other manifestations of the culture of death.

In a LifeSiteNews interview, Alex Schadenberg, President of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, spoke highly of the bishop, describing him as an “effective” leader, who adhered without compromise to the teachings of the Church.

“He was clean and clear. He knew the mind of the church and was not going to go back on it,” said Schadenberg.

Schadenberg also explained that Sgreccia’s unshakeable confidence came from his steadfast faith in the Church. The bishop, however, explained Schadenberg, did not so much chastise dissidents as just present the “truth and stick by it.”

“He would not attack you if your teaching didn’t agree; he wasn’t creating enemies and he wasn’t creating confusion,” added Schadenberg.
  Schadenberg attributed Sgreccia’s effectiveness to his ability to organize and direct conferences, documents and the members of his committees.

“Sgreccia knew who the key players were on the issues he faced and after he set the direction he didn’t stifle anybody, but everything had to follow a certain order and way,” commented Schadenberg, who finished by saying, “He was a good team player, a top down guy, and he made sure the right people were with him.  He was intimately connected with his mission.”

Jim Hughes, Vice President of International Right to Life, said that he is grateful for the bishop’s service and wishes him well in his future endeavors.

“He has served the church and us well, may God bless him with peace and happiness in his retirement,” exclaimed Hughes.