Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr welcomes you to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s website. Archbishop Schnurr is the 10th leader and the 9th Archbishop of Cincinnati, succeeding to the office on December 21, 2009.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Sunday, June 3, I will join thousands of families, priests and religious who will gather for the 13th annual Cross the Bridge for Life. The walk is always a powerful and joyful public witness to the sanctity and dignity of each human person, that most beautiful of all God’s creation. I hope you can join us.
In 2005, at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, early in his ministry as the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI shared these thoughts with the world: “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
The Church has always had a great respect for the sanctity and dignity of life, spanning all stages and conditions, from conception to natural death, from the life of the unborn to those with disabilities, the sick and those in the last stages of life. We pray without ceasing for victims of abortion and euthanasia who most vividly remind us of the loss of the most basic of human rights. We also pray for victims of poverty or racism which burdens and oppresses life, victims of capital punishment – which gives to human beings a right reserved to God alone – and innocent victims of terrorism and war.
Pope Francis, who has captivated the world by his own compassionate outreach, has stated, “The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature: At stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters.”
Our world faces an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life.” Every day we find ourselves in the midst of this conflict. We are all involved and we all share in it. And, as believers in Christ, all of us have the inescapable responsibility of being unconditionally pro-life.
The Holy Father’s words remind all who struggle to promote the value and dignity of human life that our world will treasure life only when we, as disciples of Jesus, indeed as friends of Jesus, proclaim His Gospel of Life to the heart of every man and woman.
The challenge to defend life cannot be side-stepped in an effort to create a false peace or sense of harmony. What the Catholic faith most clearly offers the rest of the world is our inherent and deep belief that every human being is a masterpiece of God, “from womb to tomb.” We must be fearless in our defense of the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the disabled. And we must never shrink from confronting life issues – first and foremost in our prayer, but also in what and how we teach as Church, and in the pastoral care that we offer. We must also never shrink from confronting life issues when we vote, in the initiatives and public policies that we are able to influence, in our volunteer efforts, and in the daily activities and choices of our lives that can even unwittingly exploit the most defenseless of lives.
There is another demand placed upon us as followers of Christ. We are obliged to maintain a sense of integrity in our defense of life and in the Gospel that we embrace. Our fundamental defense of life can never justify our diminishment of another’s life, no matter how noble the cause or just the end. Indeed, the most convincing argument that we can offer as a sign of our belief in the value of the human person is to respect, forgive and love – even the person who fails to respect and love another. To show our regard for life, we must build bridges of mutual respect, love, and understanding to unite us in a spirit of solidarity and mercy.
Not too long ago, a gentleman visited my office to discuss a number of issues. As he was about to depart, he said he would like to share a more personal story. His twelve-year-old nephew, who attends a Catholic school, was given an assignment in religion class to reflect upon and put into writing the moment in his life when he most closely felt the love of God in his life. When he turned in his paper, he had written this: “I learned of God’s love through my younger sister. You see, she suffers from cognitive disabilities, but she is always happy, always a joy to be around. It is amazing to realize that, in God’s loving plan, she will never be tempted by sin. It is amazing that God enables us to live with a saint!”
I share this story to encourage you to reflect upon the gifts of faith and life that has been woven into your lives and your families. Perhaps you have a similar story. Perhaps you have found hope in the life of an aging parent, or a victim of a debilitating disease who carries her cross with dignity, or a disabled child who is pure joy to the world around him.
Such lives are glimpses into the divine life of God. They teach us that the value and worth of the human person is not found in some arbitrary standard set by society but rather in the simple yet profound reality of creation itself – creation by the God in whose image ALL life is made. When God allows an individual to be conceived, He obviously has a plan for that person. And if we fail to respect the dignity of that person, we fail to respect God’s plan.
Cross the Bridge for Life is an opportunity to gather and pray for innocent victims of sins against human life. Please join us June 3 to celebrate God’s great gift of life. “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.”
Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati