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Pope to Catholic lawmakers: Be strong. Protect life.

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Catholic legislators to be protectors of human life, calling them to “be strong” against a throw-away culture marked by Christian persecution, and the rejection of the unborn and migrants.

The pontiff made these remarks during an audience with the International Catholic Legislators Network. During the meeting, members of the Network presented the Holy Father with a document outlining their commitment to promoting life in their respective nations, especially in areas of abortion, Christian persecution, and migration.

U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), a member of the Network present at the August 30 audience, told EWTN News Nightly how the Pope concluded the audience with off-the-cuff remarks about the “throw-away culture where the unborn child, the migrant is not wanted.”

“He also told us to be strong,” Fortenberry said.

The working document presented to Pope Francis outlines their commitment “to go deeper on the issues of protecting human life,” the Nebraska lawmaker later told CNA.

Among these issues are the persecution and “genocide” of Christians, along with its implications in international law. Another issue raised was the migration crisis, and Europe’s inability to coordinate efforts to help those escaping persecution and poverty, while addressing those who enter the continent seeking to recolonize it “in the name of Islam.”
The African voice, in particular, has gained significance in the fight to defend life and family values, Fortenberry said. He explained that the working document presented to the Pope articulates the Network’s intent to organize a conference on life issues in Africa.

“The African experience of Church and community has its own dynamics and culture,” the congressman said. “The particular situation they find themselves in is more trying to fight the assaults on human dignity and human family that are being imposed upon them by the West.”

“Values from the West,” he continued, “which are undermining family life, and attacking marriage,” by means including population control through abortion.

The people of Africa, however, are largely resisting these efforts, Fortenberry said.

“It’s not part of their culture. It’s not natural to them. And, of course, the faith re-enforces that.”

As part of the developing world, African countries have long endured the effects of colonization, neo-colonization, and globalization.

“There are benefits to that in terms of smart development… empowering people to move out of poverty, he said. “But, there is also strong baggage with that: And that means values from the West which are undermining family life, and attacking marriage.”

After presenting the document to Pope Francis, the African delegation broke into an African version of the Hallelujah, Fortenberry recounted.

“There’s a vibrancy of the faith there, there’s a strong set of vocations coming from there, which is a sign of healthiness in the Church, there is a commitment by – I hope – a growing number of public officials to stand strong, and it’s encouraging to me.”

“That’s one of the real joys,” he said: “to see African brothers and sisters coming there to be strengthened, to tell us their perspective, and help us rebuild a better just and good society.”

The International Catholic Legislators Network is a group founded by Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, and member of the British House of Lords David Alton, which meets annually in Rome.

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