The 31st Annual Respect Life State Conference was held this year in Miami, Florida on October 20-21. The event centered around the inherent dignity of each person and highlighted the life and research of Dr. Jerome Lejeune, holding a special tribute performance in his honor. Before the performance, Bishop Peter Baldacchino gave opening remarks, addressing Madame Jerome Lejeune who flew from France to attend the conference. In his tribute, he eloquently recognized the contributions of her husband to both the world of science and the pro-life movement:
I greet everyone gathered here for this 31st Respect Life State Conference being hosted this year by our Archdiocese of Miami.
In a very special way I greet Madame Lejeune (widow of Dr. Jerome Lejeune from Paris) and the members of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation; and I also recognize among us the presence of the staff of the Florida Catholic Conference as well as Respect Life state directors, priests and religious; and all those who with a generous heart have been working for months, preparing this State Conference, helping all of us to better live out this most fundamental duty of service to the Church and indeed to humanity.
Each year during the month of October we celebrate Respect Life Month in Catholic churches throughout the United States of America, providing all of us the opportunity to exercise our duty to speak the truth about the dignity of the human person.
The title of this state conference, “For the least of them,” roots us in the mission of the Church and gives our human actions an eschatological direction.
In what way can we say that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to the Lord? Saint John Paul II, in his encyclical The Gospel of Life, told us that “For the Christian, it is an absolute imperative to respect, love and promote the life of every brother and sister, in accordance with the requirements of God’s bountiful love in Jesus Christ.” (Evangelium vitae 77).
Life is indeed a mystery that surpasses us, a gift that we receive freely from God. At the same time, it is a mission to which we are called for a specific purpose.
The dignity of a person has a transcendental value, which cannot be limited to its natural expression, and it has rightly been recognized as such by all those who genuinely seek the truth, independent of their religious tenets.
However, we know, — indeed we believe, — that every person has been created in the image and likeness of God, and because of this truth all human beings are gifted (intrinsically, in their very nature!) with an invaluable dignity. A person is not a something; but rather a somebody. And this somebody is capable of knowing himself/herself, of giving himself/herself in love, of being loved, and of knowing the existence and the love of God.
Bishop Peter Baldacchino