Karonga, Malawi, Nov 11, 2016 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Joseph the Worker’s care for the infant Jesus is the model for opponents of an abortion bill in Malawi. Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre praised St. Joseph’s bravery in accepting responsibility to care for, defend, and protect the infant Christ from all harm.

The chairman of the Malawi bishops' conference spoke in Karonga Nov. 5 at the consecration of a cathedral named for St. Joseph the Worker, the Catholic News Agency for Africa reports. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the archbishop said, “human life is sacred because from its beginning until end, no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”

He called on the Catholic faithful to oppose the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Abortion is currently criminalized in the country except in cases of saving the mother's life. The bill would allow abortions in circumstances like rape, incest or “defilement,” when a pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s health, or when there is evidence the unborn baby is severely deformed, the German news site Deutsche Welle reports.

Archbishop Msusa said the Catholic faithful should stand against the abortion bill’s advocates. Those present for the consecration of the included Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga and Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples. Malawi’s vice president Saulosi Chilima also attended.

The abortion bill has support from the Malawi Council of Churches, an umbrella group for 25 Christian organizations. However, several ecclesial communities under the MCC have distanced themselves from the group's claims, and the Evangelical Association of Malawi has called on members of parliament to reject the bill.

Backers claim legal abortion will reduce maternal deaths. The Malawi Ministry of Health said that more than 70,000 women seek illegal abortions each year. It said about 31,000 of these women suffer complications, sometimes including death. It blamed botched abortions for 17 percent of maternal deaths in the country.