‘Yes to Life!’Friday 5th July 2019
In May the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life held a conference in Rome entitled ‘Yes to Life! Taking care of the precious gift of life in its frailty’. The conference, attended by 400 delegates from 70 countries, brought together medical professionals, clergy, ethicists, pastoral workers and families to discuss the protection of frail life from its beginning.
A significant focus of the 2-day conference was the exploration of how to provide additional support to families who find themselves facing a serious prenatal diagnosis. At this worrying time, many families are often only given the option of an abortion as a ‘solution’ to their problems and many feel alone and afraid at what the future holds. In response, the development of ‘Perinatal Hospices’ in some areas has offered a welcome alternative, where families in this difficult situation are offered a network of support to continue their pregnancy in difficult and uncertain times. Anna Luisa La Teano , co-founder of one such foundation, ‘Il Cuore in Una Goccia’ (A heart in a drop), spoke of the foundation as “ not only grounded on sharing experiences but above all on the concept, in a broad sense, of welcome, support and construction of lasting interpersonal bonds among family members who have learned or are learning devastating news.”
Such foundations offer invaluable advice, support and accompaniment to families who face a serious prenatal diagnosis. They enable families to continue pregnancy and accompany them as they welcome their child, allowing them to spend time with their newborn though this may sadly only be very brief. Some of the most powerful speakers at the conference were those families who came to give testimony to their own experience of facing a serious prenatal diagnosis, many spoke of the uncertainty and fear of facing this. However, all agreed that though difficult, the opportunity to accompany and welcome their child into this world, for a life that may only be brief, was a powerful and profound experience which sealed their love as parents.
In Pope Francis’ address to the conference delegates he recognised the importance of such organisations that provide this support, in a society with a ‘throw-away culture’ where seriously ill babies are deemed ‘unfit for life’ he recognised the invaluable hope that they can bring to families who often feel lost and abandoned. He spoke of allowing family love to be fulfilled for these families “That child will remain in their lives forever. And they will have had the opportunity to love their child.”
In the UK a small number of similar supportive organisations exist and some dioceses have set up pro-life offices, promoting a culture of life and dealing with many of these issues on an academic, educational and also practical level, offering support and guidance to families who need it. However, in a time where UK abortion rates are at their highest ever, and headlines speak of court enforced abortions, perhaps we need to be asking ourselves what more can we do as a Church to offer an alternative to these families?
Written by Jenny Klimiuk
Jenny Klimiuk is the Medical Director for the Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage Team. She attended the conference at the Bishop’s request.