Little Sisters Offer True Dignity in Dying, Says Prelate

Glasgow Archbishop Responds to Assisted Suicide Bill

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GLASGOW, Scotland, OCT. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Glasgow says there is a marked difference between the Little Sisters of the Poor who enable the elderly to enjoy life until God calls them home, and Parliamentarians who are pushing for Scotland to become the first part of Britain to legalize assisted suicide.



Archbishop Mario Conti made this reflection Monday when he celebrated a Mass for the Little Sisters to mark the first anniversary of the canonization of their founder, St. Jeanne Jugan.

The Little Sisters of the Poor have care homes for the elderly around the world. In fact, last month, Benedict XVI visited one of their homes during his pastoral visit to the United Kingdom.

Archbishop Conti's reflections came as Member of Parliament Margo MacDonald, herself suffering from Parkinson's Disease, is attempting to make assisted suicide legal in Scotland. Last week, a special Holyrood committee to examine evidence on the measure had its final session. That examination was the first of a three-stage parliamentary process the bill faces.

A "Care Not Killing" campaign is under way to oppose the measure.

Delicacy

Archbishop Conti's address to the Little Sisters of the Poor spoke of the "delicacy of the care given" to the elderly by the nuns.

He said that as he was preparing his homily, he was shown a note by the future Blessed John XXIII, who was struck by the service offered by the sisters in Turkey.
 
"Every day I witness with my own eyes the edifying spectacle of the survival of the spirit of simplicity, humility and inexhaustible and trusting generosity that the Little Sisters still offer today in Constantinople. … It is as though certain traits of their blessed Mother Foundress shine in each one of them," the future Pope wrote.

Archbishop Conti added: "It struck me that I could say the same about my own visits here, which I value very much. I am always deeply impressed by the delicacy of the care given and the dedication of those who give it.
 
"On your Web site there is a lovely summary of your vocational charism ... it notes: 'Nothing means more to us than continuing the spirit and work of Jeanne Jugan in the world today -- welcoming the needy elderly into our homes, forming one family with them, enabling them to enjoy life and caring for them with love and respect until the moment God calls them home!'"

The prelate called this a "simple but weighty responsibility" and affirmed that it is carried out with "great skill and attention."

Universal import

Reflecting on the anniversary of Jeanne Jugan's canonization, the Glasgow archbishop affirmed that being recognized a saint "means that a person’s life and work and message have a universal impact and importance."
 
He said: "In this case the love for and care for the elderly is in striking contrast to those in our society who would see old age as a kind of failure which must be resisted, and see infirmity as a burden to be despised, culminating in a desire to promote euthanasia as an alternative to natural decline.
 
"Here, in this place, we read a very different story to that told by supporters of Margo MacDonald’s bill currently before the Scottish Parliament which seeks to legalize assisted suicide.
 
"Human beings living with the burden of age and in declining strength are assisted to live -- not to die."

The archbishop said the concept of "frail elderly being a 'burden' to others is alien" to those who work in the Little Sisters' home and who "recognize in each and every resident, a person made in the image and likeness of God, worthy of the highest levels of care in surroundings characterized by delicacy and serenity."
 
"'Care not killing' is what happens here too," he affirmed. "And who can argue that this oasis of loving tenderness, rather than the doctor’s syringe, is what is truly meant by 'dignity in dying.'"