Pope Francis has issued an early message ahead of next October's annual Day for Life celebration to coincide with the ongoing debate surrounding Ireland's abortion legislation.
It emphasises the importance of the support of life and in particular the need to care from conception to natural end. Although directed to Catholics in both Ireland and the UK, the message comes as the country is embroiled in debate and as members of the Seanad were voting on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
The Day for Life celebration is an annual event marked by the church which falls on October 6th in Ireland, but this month in the UK. A church spokesman said that the decision to release the Irish message early this year was done with the ongoing debate in mind.
"It's early for a particular reason: to coincide with the debate that is happening in the Oireachtas and to promote the church teaching in relation to the sanctity of life in all its stages," he said.
In his address, the pope said: "Calling to mind the teaching of Saint Irenaeus that the glory of God is seen in a living human being, the Holy Father encourages all of you to let the light of that glory shine so brightly that everyone may come to recognise the inestimable value of all human life.
Weak and vulnerable
"Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God's creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.
“His Holiness prays that the Day for Life will help to ensure that human life always receives the protection that is it’s due, so that ‘everything that breathes may praise the Lord’.”
One of the key aims of the event, the church says, is to “build an environment of compassion and care that nurtures and sustains life, even in the most challenging of human events and personal circumstances”.