Most Distinguished Chairmen, Speakers and Participants,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, 25 March 2015, the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers is celebrating with joy the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, and I extend to you my most cordial greetings and I express to you my warm gratitude for your participation.
My welcome in particular goes to
, to the distinguished speakers and all the very important guests who have come here. For me it is an honour to chair this study day on the encyclical letter Evangelium vitae on the twentieth anniversary of its publication.
Indeed, four decades have passed since John Paul II published on 25 March 1995 the encyclical letter Evangelium vitae, which has rightly been called a milestone of the pontificate of John Paul II.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, a joint feast day of Christ and the Virgin: of the Word that became the Son of Mary (Mk 6:3) and of the Virgin who became the Mother of God. With her generous fiat (cf. Lk 1:38), she became, through the work of the Spirit, the Mother of God, but also the true Mother of the living by welcoming in her womb the author of life, the only Mediator (cf. 1Tim 2:5).
‘The one who accepted "Life" in the name of all and for the sake of all was Mary, the Virgin Mother; she is thus most closely and personally associated with the Gospel of life. Mary's consent at the Annunciation and her motherhood stand at the very beginning of the mystery of life which Christ came to bestow on humanity (cf. Jn 10:10). Through her acceptance and loving care for the life of the Incarnate Word, human life has been rescued from condemnation to final and eternal death’ (EV, n. 102). Mary is the Mother of the living God, the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life. We are truly sons in the Son and sons of Mary; from Mary we have received the gift of the Author of life.
The celebration of a twentieth anniversary is also an anamnestic operation. To turn one’s gaze to the roots is a part, indeed, of memory. The magisterium of the Popes has sought to promote the defence of human life from its beginning to its final moment. This teaching became increasingly emphasised above all starting with Humanae vitae of Paul VI (1968), which was followed in 1981 by the apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio.
In 1983 the Synod of Bishops denounced with fear the enormous struggle in the contemporary world between the culture of life and the culture of death. This last, today, is unfortunately more rooted and more expressed: ‘In our days the tension between the light and the shadows (cf. 1Jn 2:8-11) is an immense and enormous struggle between the culture of life and the culture of death…Culture of death are ‘warlike aggression, violence and terrorism’, as well as the terrifying ‘accumulation of weapons’, especially atomic ones, and the scandalous traffic in weapons of war of every kind’.
In 1987 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the Instruction Donum vitae. In 1993 John Paul II himself, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor, offered the foundations of Catholic morality, and, as a confirmation to the commitment to defending life, in 1994 he instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life. Lastly, in 1995, as a tribute to the request formulated in a unanimous way by the Cardinals at the extraordinary consistory of April 1991, and in the face of the numerous attacks on life perpetuated in the world, the bishops asked the Pope to reaffirm with his authority the value and the inviolability of human life: Pope John Paul II then published his encyclical Evangelium vitae in which we find a precise and firm reaffirmation of the value of human life.
An inescapable point of departure for our study day is this encyclical which represents a summary of the constant and perennial teaching of the Church on respect for human life.
Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium says ‘no’ to the destruction of life: ‘Our world is being torn apart by wars and violence, and wounded by a widespread individualism which divides human beings, setting them against one another as they pursue their own well-being. In various countries, conflicts and old divisions from the past are re-emerging. I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion’.
The encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae is a document of extraordinary contemporary relevance which strongly emphasises that man constitutes the first and fundamental way of the Church. This is why this study day does not want to be a simple celebratory commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of its publication but also intends to ask questions about the culture of life in a cultural and social context where the promotion of ‘a culture of life’ that becomes an existential heritage for the whole of humanity is urgently needed.
Distinguished speakers, all of us are responsible for the promotion of the culture life. John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae highlighted how ‘only the concerted efforts of all those who believe in the value of life can prevent a setback of unforeseeable consequences for civilization’ (EV, n. 91).
In wishing you all a happy and lasting outcome for your deliberations, let us implore the intercession of the Mother of life, the Virgin of the Annunciation, so that she will support us in this activity and make us constantly ready to give reasons for living, and hope, to our brothers and sisters.
Let us now stand to listen to the words and the apostolic blessing of the Holy Father Francis which I have the honour and the pleasure to communicate to you!
 GIOVANNI PAOLO II, Lettera enciclica, Evangelium vitae, sul valore e l’inviolabilità della vita umana (25 marzo 1995): AAS 87 (1995), pp. 401-522.
 VI SINODO DEI VESCOVI, ‘Messaggio al mondo’, in L’Osservatore Romano, 28.10.1983, 1.
 POPE FRANCIS, Esortazione apostolica Evangelii gaudium , n. 99.