VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The universal, natural human reaction to the death of a loved one should show believers and non-believers alike that human life has value, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“The awareness of the sacredness of the life entrusted to us — not as something we can dispose of freely, but as a gift to safeguard faithfully — belongs to the moral heredity of humanity,” the pope wrote in a message to a dialogue between Catholics and non-believers, meeting in Portugal.

The gathering Nov. 16-17 in Guimaraes was organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture as part of its “Courtyard of the Gentiles” project, bringing thinkers together to discuss topics of concern to society.


The pope said the Portugal meeting was designed to bring together “believers and non-believers around the common aspiration of affirming the value of human life amid the growing wave of the culture of death.”

Pope Benedict said that while the value of life can be affirmed by anyone who thinks the matter through logically, for those who believe in God the value of life is even clearer.

“We are not an accidental product of evolution,” but created and loved by God, he said.

In his message, Pope Benedict said people could ask why he brings God into the question if he really believes that the value of life can be clear to anyone using logic.

“In response, I would cite a human experience: The death of a loved one is, for the person who loved her, the most absurd event imaginable. She, unconditionally, is worthy of life; it is good and beautiful that she exists,” the pope said. “At the same time, the death of this person would appear, in the eyes of someone who did not love her, as a natural, logical event.”

Pope Benedict said the response of the one who loved the deceased is a logical — and not simply emotional reaction — if that person was loved “by an infinite power.”

“One who loves does not want the beloved to die, and if he could, he would prevent that death forever,” the pope said.

While “finite love is powerless” to keep someone alive, “infinite love is almighty,” he said. In the Christian vision, “God loves every person who, therefore, is unconditionally worthy of living.”

Faith in God and God’s love gives even greater power to the natural belief in the value of every human life, Pope Benedict said.

In addition, he said, peace and harmony increase in societies where the God-given value of human life is recognized.

The world has “many problems that need to be resolved, but they never will be if God is not placed in the center” of people’s lives and decisions, the pope said. “One who opens himself to God does not distance himself from the world and from other people, but finds brothers and sisters.”