Pope Francis has drawn praise for his firm pro-life stance as well as his approach to the topic — which goes to the heart of the issue and teaches the Church how to truly embrace humanity. “I believe he has a very integral approach to teaching the faith. In other words, anything that we teach as a Church he adheres to 1,000 percent. Like he said, 'I am a son of the Church,'” pro-life activist Father Frank Pavone told journalists in an Aug. 31 interview. “There's no question here about does he himself buy into whole heart and soul everything the Church teaches. Of course he does. The question is, how does he want to present that?” Fr. Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, explained that although there is still “a level of discomfort” regarding the pontiff’s approach to pro-life issues in the United States, his style is “a particular blessing” for all those involved the pro-life movement. Referring to the Pope’s great concern regarding those who are alienated or distant from the Church, the priest said that his desire to relate “everything the Church teaches to the heart and core of it which is Jesus Christ and the joy of knowing him” is a more effective means of evangelization. Despite the fact that he tends to be less outspoken on life issues than his predecessors, Pope Francis offers the pro-life movement a new, fresh perspective that doesn’t pin it down to merely saying “the Church teaches that abortion is wrong.” Calling to mind the shock experienced by many at the closing Mass of a pro-live event in the Vatican in June 2014 when the pontiff failed to make any mention of issues such as abortion or euthanasia, Fr. Pavone stated that if we really think about it, his words that day offered something more essential. “God is life. If we’re saying yes to God we’re saying yes to life…any idea or action contrary to life is idolatry,” he said, quoting the Pope’s homily. When we compare someone who says “abortion is wrong, the Church is against it” with someone who says: “’Any action or thought against life is idolatry,’ which of those explanations puts it on a firmer basis?” “Just to say that the Church rejects abortion is like saying ‘that’s today, but in ten years it will change, or that’s not essential to the faith,’” the priest explained, but “Is the Church ever going to say idolatry is ok?” “In other words what he’s doing is taking the teaching and relating it to the most fundamental foundation of the Church: the worship of God, the one God. You can’t get any stronger than that in talking about the Church’s pro-life teaching.” His style, Fr. Pavone continued, shows the Church how to truly care for humanity and how to look after the well-being of the human person in a way that does not condemn, but rather brings mercy. Referring to a homily Pope Francis gave earlier this summer during a daily Mass at his residence in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the priest recalled how it was all about “touching the wounds of Jesus.” Noting how the pontiff “exemplifies this in what he does,” Fr. Pavone explained how in his homily the Pope said that “we have to go to the wounds, we have to go where the people are who are wounded, and not only do we have to go to them, we have to embrace those wounds even physically.” “This is a whole aspect of spirituality that can really bless the pro-life movement because if we have to go to embrace the wounds of the poor, the homeless, the dying, the outcasts, the prisoners, then so we have to do for the unborn.” In this context, what Pope Francis is doing is “laying the groundwork” for what the pro-life movement needs to emphasize, he said, observing how the movement can often seem “abstract.” “The more we can concretize it” and show that “there are victims whose blood is being shed, and we can go and embrace them literally, this is what’s going to help us make progress.”
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