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ROME, June 21 2013 ( – Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Signitura launched the Vatican’s celebration of Pope John Paul II’s pro-life encyclical the Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) Saturday, delivering the main address at the English-language catechesis.  The promotion of a culture of life depends, said Cardinal Burke  “on a new appreciation of Christian wives and mothers… on a new proclamation regarding woman and motherhood.”

The catechesis on the encyclical marked the beginning of the Evangelium Vitae Day which culminated in a Mass Sunday morning with Pope Francis which was attended by over 200,000.  An adoration hour and candlelight vigil concluded the Saturday events.

Quoting Evangelium Vitae, Burke drew attention to the “daily heroism” of “brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves”.

Burke further quoted from the encycical:

“In living out their mission “these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete … We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life … In the Paschal Mystery, Christ restores to you the gift you gave him. Indeed, he has the power to give you back the life you gave him as an offering”.

Pope John Paul II was insistent that, “In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive.”  He added: “It depends on them to promote a ‘new feminism’ which rejects the temptation of imitating models of ‘male domination’, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society.”

And what is that genius? Pope John Paul in Evangelium Vitae expresses it as an ‘urgent appeal’ to women. He calls on women to:

“Reconcile people with life. You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship.

The experience of motherhood makes you acutely aware of the other person and, at the same time, confers on you a particular task: Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb … This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman's personality.

A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health.  This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.”

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In his talk Burke included references to the importance of  alternative media and activism. He stated, “I underline the importance of developing and supporting pro-life and pro-family media and of organizing and sustaining public manifestations in support of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and the integrity of the family.”

Cardinal Burke mentioned the recent Rome March for Life in which he participated. He stated, “The words of Pope Francis to the participants in the second annual March for Life in Rome which doubled its number confirmed the importance of major public manifestations for the Gospel of Life.”

Author and professor Francis Beckwith of Baylor University also addressed the English-language gathering addressing the need to always be ready to defend the ‘hope that is within you.’  The text of Beckwith’s talk can read in The Catholic Thing.

The final presentation of the morning session was given by Professor Robert Royal, the head of the organization The Catholic Thing who noted that relativism was only phase one of the attack on the culture of life. Relativism was used to destroy the old understanding of morality, he said, but a new type of morality is now being enforced.  The solution he said, is to evangelize yes but also to concentrate our efforts on bringing children into the world and educating them in faith.