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Honouring the support of Cardinal George Pell

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Cardinal George Pell was invited to deliver the opening address for MaterCare’s 10th International Conference in Rome on 17th September, 2013. In honour of his legacy and support, we offer the transcript and the recording of his presentation below.

Cardinal Pell’s address to MaterCare International Rome

- September 2013

Full Transcript below:

It's a great joy and privilege to address the members and supporters of

MaterCare as you gather in Rome for your tenth international conference. It's

fitting that you've come to the Eternal City where the church this year is

celebrating a number of significant anniversaries, anniversaries of special

relevance to the conference theme, “Catholicism and maternal health care”.

This year marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith, the 50th anniversary of

the Second Vatican Council, and the 25th anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem, Blessed John Paul's groundbreaking encyclical on the dignity of woman. Each of these events for different reasons resonates with the distinctive work and mission of MaterCare International. The

Church gives thanks for the presence and witness of an organization of midwives

and obstetricians so dedicated to defending the lives and health of women

and children. We give thanks for its beautiful and powerful expression of

evangelization bringing The Gospel of Life to places where human dignity is

most threatened or violated and where mothers can sometimes risk their very

lives to give birth to their children. The value and significance of the mission of MaterCare International can't be overstated. Maternal healthcare is a kind of meeting point where the struggle takes place between the culture of life in the culture of death, it's where we're called to love and uphold the dignity of all to ensure that the poor are supported in having their babies, not just the well-off. Sadly there are many government agencies and NGOs

willing to provide a poor and illiterate woman with an abortion, contraception or

sterilization but few willing to give her the care and support which pregnant

mothers in the West rightly expect. Our Holy Father Pope Francis has called us

to be a church for the poor, his call should resonate powerfully in our hearts and challenges

us as we see around us daily evidence of the resources of the West deliberately

turned against human life love and dignity, causing great suffering and profound material and spiritual poverty. One of the great developments of the Second Vatican Council was its

recognition of the distinctive role of the laity in humanizing society and

bringing the light of Christ to the world through the exercise of their gifts and

professions. Gaudium et spes, the church's pastoral Constitution on the

church in the modern world recognized that changing technologies and

globalization would mean these gifts could be extended to peoples around the

world. With the needed help of divine grace, laymen and women faithful to

Christ and generous of heart could be artisans of a new humanity. Professor

Robert Wally is one of those artisans foreseen by the council, his vision was

of an international organization of obstetricians and midwives dedicated to

the assistance of pregnant mothers especially the poorest and most

vulnerable was a manifestation of that flowering of the Holy Spirit following

the council which inspired and brought forth new expressions of Christ's love

for Humanity and his special concern for the poor. Dr. Walley’s strength and

determination flow from his profound conviction that every mother however

poor has the right to the care and support necessary to give birth to her

child in dignity and safety and that every child has the right to be born and

welcomed with love. The achievements of MaterCare International in developing

countries have been recognized worldwide, the new maternity hospital established

in Isiolo, Kenya, the training of local midwives, the establishment of birth

centres, and the provision of surgery and other rehabilitation for women who've

suffered injuries due to lack of skilled care during childbirth. All of these

works continue to contribute significantly to the reduction of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity. The dedicated volunteers of MaterCare International demonstrate the

truth of Blessed John Paul II’s words, that despite the immense pressures

from within their professions many still recognize their responsibilities as

medical specialists to care for the tiniest and weakest of human beings and

to defend those who have no economic or social power or public voice of their

own. Women are given a profound task in motherhood, it's a task that can demand

their all, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s blessing and a burden

they must not be left to bear alone. The pregnant mother is a sign of fundamental

Realities we are all called to recognize; the dignity of the human person, the

privilege of procreating a life with God, the meaning and purpose of human

sexuality, the equal dignity of woman, the complementarity of man and woman, the

right to basic health care, the right to be protected from violence. Called by

Blessed John Paul “the servants and guardians of life”, Christian obstetricians and midwives see every mother as a tabernacle. You see the beauty and grandeur of the intimate relationship of a mother and her unborn child, in which she cooperates with the

Creator in the marvellous task of giving life to a new human being. The Blessed

Virgin Mary shared this most intimate relationship with her son by her willingness to allow the conception, and bearing within her body of God himself she infused human motherhood with a supernatural dignity. Her “yes” to motherhood allowed us to be saved by one like us, a man who shared our human experience our joys and our sufferings. As Pope Francis writes in his recent encyclical Lumen fidei (The Light of Faith), “Mary's true motherhood ensures for the Son of God an authentic human history, true flesh, in which He would die on the cross and rise from the dead.” Because Mary was chosen for this privilege, the motherhood of every pregnant woman shares in this sign of God's faithful love for humanity.

As Blessed John Paul explained in Mulieris dignitatem, “Motherhood has been

introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with Humanity in

Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race

through the motherhood of the Mother of God.” As obstetricians and midwives you're

privileged to share in this sacred an intimate relationship between mother and

child, but you also share in the Church's great work of evangelization. There's a

greater and deeper dimension to your profession by which you witness to a

supernatural reality. The honour you give to a pregnant mother bears witness to

her own inherent dignity and that of her child, which sadly the world so often

denies, and it also witnesses to the truth that for every woman motherhood is

forever changed because God Himself took flesh and became a tiny helpless child

in Mary's womb, totally dependent on her love and on those who protected and

cared for her. In his great work The Sickness unto Death, the Danish

philosopher Soren Kierkegaard argues that the fundamental root of human

violence is human beings’ refusal to grow psychologically and spiritually. In

Christian terms our refusal to love. Abortion and other forms of violence and

injustice against women; sexual slavery, forced marriage, marriage repudiation and

other unjust laws are found in many parts of the world. Abortion in particular challenges us we are compelled to consider whether the proper response to poverty abuse or

exploitation is violence or if there is in fact a radical alternative to

violence and of solidarity and love personified in Jesus Christ. The only

response worthy of the human person is inclusiveness based on love. Like every

bad ideology throughout history the culture of death carries within it the

seeds of its own destruction. Blessed John Paul saw that the Soviet empire

although it appeared massive and invincible was rotten to the core, that

its foundations would collapse if they were challenged. Even though it may seem

at times that acceptance of abortion is firmly and deeply entrenched, it's

important that we combat the sense of inevitability that supporters of the

culture of death like to purvey. Annual polls conducted by Gallup in the United

States since 1995 reveal that since 2009 a majority of Americans now identify as

pro-life rather than pro-choice. Attitudes can and will change when

people see a credible incoherent alternative to the dominant worldview,

when the sterile and anti-human roots of that worldview are brought into the

light. The compassion perseverance and living witness of the pro-life movement

are testaments to the truth of the dignity of every human life and the

fundamental importance of standing in solidarity with the pregnant mother. In

his apostolic letter for the Year of Faith Benedict the 16th invited the

church to retrace the history of our faith. The growth of the early church, through adult baptisms and through Christians marrying and bearing children averaged an extraordinary forty percent per decade. Historian Rodney Stark estimates that from a small group of around 1,000 Christians in the year 40 AD, the church grew to about 30 million in 350 AD, forming a majority of the population of the Roman Empire. The Pagan Empires at this time brought significant resemblances to our world today. Infidelity, divorce, contraception, abortion, and infanticide, of baby girls especially, were widely practiced. The rights of women were unrecognized and their dignity was widely violated. The pagan world was converted by the lives of Christians and by the love to which they bore witness. The concern of the early Christians for the poor, the sick, and the unborn was particularly powerful. They showed the world that there is a God who loves us and that we can see His love made visible in those who love, profess, and follow His son. Through the honour and love you give to the pregnant mother and the care you give her and her child, you are evangelizers. As healers you are living manifestations of Christ the Healer, as Christ demonstrated his willingness to heal those at the margins of society; women, cripples, lepers. So do you imitate Him in the world today, bringing poor and pregnant mothers from

a position of outcast to a position of relationship and belonging. Above all our

response to those in need must be formed by an attitude of love and a desire for

justice. It's love founded in Christ which conquers fear, death, exploitation, selfishness and loss of hope. Our faith in Him gives us the strength to persevere at those times when it seems that our efforts are so small compared with the suffering and the evils we confront, or when we feel discouraged by our own sinfulness and inadequacies. The teaching of our Holy Father Pope Francis encourages us, that faith isn't a light which scatters all

our darkness but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the

journey. The Second Vatican Council declared that the joys and the hopes the

griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor

or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes the griefs and anxieties

of the followers of Christ. MaterCare International makes the joys, hopes,

fears and anxieties of poor and pregnant mothers around the world its own. Just as

the Lord hears the cry of the poor, so he's moved your hearts to hear the cry

of the pregnant woman to give birth in dignity and safety, the cry of the unborn

child to be born. May Our Lady, Mother of the poor, intercede for you all as you

begin this tenth international conference of MaterCare International, and may the Lord bless you abundantly in your work that gives life and hope to so many women and children around the world.

May God bless you.

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