By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, June 18, 2012

Love and Hope

I write from Ireland, where I have been participating in the International Eucharistic Congress. Approximately 1200 pilgrims, accompanied by 17 Bishops, form the Canadian delegation. It has been a beautiful celebration of love and hope as we gathered in a unique way around our Lord, present in the Eucharist.

It is precisely this message of love and hope that needs to be carried home. This became painfully evident on Friday, when a judge of the B.C. courts ruled unconstitutional the prohibition of assisted suicide. In a tragic irony, this was the very same day when the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This heart of the Lord is celebrated as the wondrous sign of God's love and compassion for his people, especially the suffering. On that day, we at the Congress celebrated the sacrament of the sick. How beautiful and moving it was to see the weak and needy turn to the Lord to find healing, strength and hope in the midst of their pain. When we allow the heart of the Lord to shape our own, it is obvious we are called to respond to the suffering of the elderly, the sick and the handicapped by surrounding them with love, comfort and hope, and not by encouraging them to end their lives or doing so for them!!!

Here follows the statement of the Canadian Conference of Bishops in response to the court ruling:

"The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has learned with dismay of a ruling on assisted suicide by a judge of the BC Supreme Court. The Catholic position on this question is clear. Human life is a gift from God. Therefore, as is taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2280, "We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of."

Being stewards of life also requires each of us and all society to respond to the physical, emotional and moral sufferings of people of all ages, particularly those seriously ill or handicapped. In this regard, as the Bishops of Canada stated in 2005, we stand before a fundamental option, the response to which reveals the true nature of our society's heart. Do we show concern for the sick, the elderly, the handicapped and vulnerable by encouraging them to commit suicide or deliberating killing them by euthanasia? Or, instead, by fashioning a culture of life and love in which each person, at every moment and in all circumstances of their natural lifespan, is treasured as a gift?
The CCCB President will issue a more detailed reflection at a later date, once there has been opportunity to review the lengthy 395-page ruling. The ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court gives Parliament a year in which to consider the question. This will also give the CCCB opportunity to make submissions in due course."