WASHINGTON — All human life must be “cherished and protected,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
He made the comments in a Sept. 28 statement launching the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ yearlong Respect Life Program.
Each year, October is designated as Respect Life Month by the USCCB and this year’s theme is “Moved by Mercy.”
It draws on a quote from Pope Francis when he called for the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “We are called to show mercy because mercy has been shown to us.”
The first Sunday of October, which is Oct. 2 this year, is Respect Life Sunday, and kicks off what is a yearlong pro-life program for the U.S. Catholic Church.
The USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities has prepared a packet for the 2016-2017 program containing materials and resources that can be downloaded in English and Spanish.
“When we let our hearts be moved by God’s mercy, it shapes everything,” said Dolan, who emphasized the need to protect human life at every stage. “From each tiny child waiting to be born, to individuals nearing death, all are precious and deserve our care and protection.”
“Women and men suffering after abortion, individuals tempted to end their lives, couples longing to conceive a child, people pushed to the margins of society by a ‘throwaway culture,’ expectant mothers facing challenging pregnancies, and every other person — each ‘has a place in God’s heart from all eternity’,” he said, citing the pope’s 2016 apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).
Dolan called for every person to be “treated with the dignity they deserve. No one should ever be treated callously or carelessly — everyone should be cherished and protected!”
Launched in 1972, the Respect Life Program was created to celebrate the value and dignity of human life in Catholic dioceses across the United States. Each year, as a part of the program, Respect Life Month is observed with liturgies and marked by special events that take place during the month of October and continue through the following September.
“Like the good Samaritan, may we always treat each person with merciful love and respect that affirms the gift of his or her life,” says the introduction to the packet of materials, which include brochures, fliers and posters. A social media toolkit also is available at the same website; the social media campaign is using the hashtag #MovedByMercy.
The yearlong observance aims “to help Catholics understand, value and become engaged with supporting the dignity of the human person, and therefore the gift of every person’s life.”
The 2016-17 materials feature six articles highlighting ways to put mercy into action. They address the tragedy of assisted suicide; navigating infertility; facilitating healing after abortion; end-of-life care; attentiveness to God’s creation; and supporting expectant mothers who are considering placing their baby for adoption.
This year’s program offers new prayers, toolkits for clergy and the media, as well as other resources for parish bulletins, religious education, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, marriage prep and Catholic high schools. The materials also are suitable for individual use, according to the pro-life secretariat.