In an April 5 ceremony, Notre Dame University honored prominent U.S. pro-life congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), and his wife, Marie, who is also a pro-life advocate, with its 2014 Evangelium Vitae Medal. In a speech thanking the university for the recognition, Rep. Smith said that pro-life individuals have the responsibility to “speak truth to power, no matter the sacrifice or cost.” Real change “will only be achieved by persevering prayer, fasting and hard work,” he said. “It falls to us to promote and establish a sustainable culture of life both here and overseas.” Since 2011, the Evangelium Vitae Medal has been awarded annually by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. The medal was inspired by Bl. Pope John Paul II's papal encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.” The award is given to those who have worked to help build a culture of life and respect for the sanctity of life from its earliest stages. Previous recipients have included the Sisters of Life, George Mason University law professor Helen M. Alvaré, and the U.S. bishops’ conference associate director of pro-life activities, Richard Doerflinger. The 2014 award was given to the Smiths at an April 5 dinner and Mass, celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit. “In their work and in their persons, Congressman Chris and Marie Smith are extraordinary witnesses to the inalienable dignity and matchless worth of every member of the human family, born and unborn,” said Carter Snead, director of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture. “One could not imagine more worthy recipients of the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, the most significant and prestigious award for those whose lives have been devoted to building a culture of life,” Snead continued in a statement on the award. “It is likewise fitting that Congressman and Mrs. Smith should receive this award at Notre Dame, an institution that proudly affirms the equal dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.” Rep. Smith serves as a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and as the chairman of its subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. He co-chairs the House bipartisan Pro-Life Caucus and has been the sponsor of numerous bills protecting life and human dignity, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, which established programs for ethical stem cell research. Marie Smith directs the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, a pro-life global outreach organization that seeks to unite with pro-life groups, religious leaders and lawmakers to promote a culture of life in both law and society. In his acceptance speech, Rep. Smith commented that the current age is one of “Orwellian-like double speak” where what “was once construed as right and honorable and good, now, all of a sudden, is labeled wrong.” “To defend Judeo-Christian values in modern times, especially in the public square, makes both our message and our mere physical presence unwanted and unwelcomed.” In the United States, he went on, the “passage of time hasn’t changed the fact that abortion is a serious, lethal violation of human rights, and that women and children deserve better,” and abroad, “the culture of death has made recent inroads in many parts of the world.” “It falls to us to warn others in the world of the deception and lies so skillfully employed by the abortion industry,” Rep. Smith stressed. “We need to admonish policy makers worldwide that the legacy of abortion in America has been 40 years of victims — dead babies, wounded mothers, shattered families.” The congressman also pointed to St. Patrick of Ireland, as an example for “Notre Dame — home of the 'Fighting Irish.'” He noted that “St. Patrick faced huge obstacles and dangers and challenges in his day,” but that the saint turned to God “and His mercy to heal and restore and sanctify not only individuals and families but nations as well.” St. Patrick wrote, during his time evangelizing in Ireland, that God watched over him and “He protected me and consoled me as a father would his son.” Rep. Smith continued to quote from the saint, saying that therefore, “I cannot keep silent,” because “our way to repay Him is to exalt Him and confess His wonders before every nation under heaven.” “We can’t be silent either,” the congressman urged. “All of us must persevere in the defense of life. We have a duty to protect.”
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