Schönstatt - Begegnungen

For the Dignity and Protection of Human Life

Common Initiative of Ecclesial Movements in Germany for the Protection of Human Embryos Gaining Influence in Church and Society

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(Ruth and Peter Fischer, mkf) In Mid June, three Ecclesial Movements Bread of Life, Focolare, and Schoenstatt joined forces to make a public statement regarding embryo-consuming stem cell research. Since then, they have tried to gain influence on the process of decision making in the political fields by collecting signatures for a ban on "using" human embryos for medical or scientific research. For the Schoenstatt Movement, Ruth and Peter Fischer, diocesan leaders of the Schoenstatt Family Movement in the Cologne diocese, joined the Executive Board of the iniative. Since the start of the initiative 21,468 signatures had been collected by August 1, of them 2,730 by members of the Schoenstatt movement. The initiative becomes more known and is gaining influence on the public; at the same time, reflections on life, human dignity and the commitment to act have been initiated within the Schoenstatt Movement.

Meanwhile, a number of movements, parties and groups have joined the initiative: Ecological Democratic Party (ödp), SOS Life, KALEB, Stefanus Community, Couples for Christ, Jedidja, Agnus Dei, Culture of Life, and Jemael International. In the general populace, support is found for the call for a legislation that recognizes and protects all human life. It is about the conviction that each human being, as God's creature, is created to live - without pre-selection, without timely limits. Father Kentenich developed, specially on the background of his experiences in the Dachau concentration camp, a spirituality of human dignity based on the conviction that each human being is wanted, loved and respected by God: a spirituality that not only calls for adequate respect of each life but also responsibility for each life - even one that only begins to exist.

"But when sick persons can receive help and healing ..."

"But when sick persons can receive help and healing from stem cell research, isn't it then good to do it?" A discussion begins in a group of women from the Schoenstatt Movement, as one of the members invited the others to pass on the lists for signatures. Have human beings the right to create human beings and to use them when it helps other human beings? And if not a human being from the beginning, then when?

"Working for this initiative creates and strengthens a sensibility for life, " said Gabriele Sudermann, the leader of the Professional Women. "In our community, we became active as soon as we heard about the Initiative. Women started to collect signatures who never before had developed any apostolic tendency."-"On our Covenant Day, on August 18, we will circulate signature papers. Most of all, we will pray for this Initiative and for all these tiny human beings who are precious in the eyes of God, for those who were only 'produced to be destroyed' for the benefit of other human beings, who are deep-frozen and wait for their 'use'," added another one. "I am terrified noticing what misled 'humanity' makes human beings do," said Hildegard Fischer, from the Professional Women of Northern Germany. "That causes fear."

"We can move mountains when we allow this situation to move us!"

In a Protestant hospital in Wesel, Birgit Brömmel, a teacher of nursing, member of the Professional Women, collected more than 100 signatures. The director of the school, the director of the nursing department of the hospital, and several doctors in charge for a department of the hospital are among those who gave the signiture. Other members of the community ciurculated lists among their co-workers in nursing homes, hospitals, pharmacies, shelters for children, and in parishes.

Of course the initiators also meet people who do not sign. Ruth Fischer says: "The worst experience, howeve,r is that some people simply don't care. It does not bother them. They don't mind us crying out for the life of these innocent beings, but they won't. That is the moment when I have to fight tears. Then I place this experience in the home shrine, in the hands of my Mother."

The "top three" dioceses having collected the most signatures so far are Münster, Cologne and Trier; of the branches, the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, the Schoenstatt Family Movement, and the Professional Ladies (Northern Germany) have collected the most signatures.

Informational kit to over Thousand Catholic Institutions

Radio Vatican, as well as a bigger German newspaper covered the Initiative for the Protection of Human Dignity. The Focolare Movement created a press release, Bread of life a website, the Schoenstatt Family Movement of the Cologne Archdiocese sent an information kit and the invitation to join and support the initiative to over 1,000 Catholic institutions in Germany."Because the work connected with such an activity makes many persons hesitate to become active, we volunteer to do all the administrational and organizational work," said Ruth and Peter Fischer, diocesan leaders of the Cologne Schoenstatt family movement, parents of four children ages 2 - 9. "We experience a lot of support from the Schoenstatt families in our parish."

The informational kit has material about the initiative, some background information and explanation about stem cell research, the Press release, and of course lists. Quite likely in the first days of October, representatives of the Ecclesial Movements will bring the lists to Chancellor Schröder and the leaders of the factions on the German parliament.

English edition: Joan Biemert, New Franken, Wisconsin,USA

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