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Burke conference addresses the dignity of life

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Nearly 400 guests, including 100 young adults, attended the Peace and Justice Conference at Church of the Nativity in Burke March 23. George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré gave the keynote address.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass to begin the conference, which was sponsored by the diocesan Peace and Justice Commission.

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge said it is sad we must refer to our society as a throwaway society. “We know the effects of the throwaway society. All human life is no longer revered and protected, and the dignity of all human persons is no longer respected and upheld. Thus, abortion is legalized, euthanasia and assisted suicide are deemed appropriate.”

Alvaré spoke about the theme of the throwaway culture highlighted by Pope Francis and gave background on Catholic social teaching about dignity, discussed current issues, hurdles and ideas.

“Solidarity flows from the idea that people are intrinsically social,” said Alvaré. “Like the Holy Trinity you were born to be in relationship.”

A roundtable and panel discussion followed the keynote. Small groups were asked to answer questions: How are you involved in promoting justice and the dignity of life? From Alvaré’s talk, what was most challenged or surprised you? What was most affirming for you to hear?

The panel included Bishop Burbidge, Alvaré, and Lorenzo and Katherine Resendez, parishioners of Nativity. Lorenzo is a counselor for diocesan Catholic Charities, while Katherine is a freelance sign language interpreter.

Samantha Tuz, a young adult from All Saints Church in Manassas, attended the event. “I probably learned more than I anticipated,” she said. “Most conferences I go to I feel empowered to do something, and I feel that way coming to this one.”

George Young, a parishioner of Nativity, viewed the conference through the lens of his role on the parish Creation Care Committee. “As part of the committee, our belief is you have to take care of creation and the earth in order to take care of all mankind,” he said. “If we don't have our earth, we can't do anything to help our fellow man.”

Carolyn Bonanno, a parishioner of All Saints, was struck by Alvaré’s words on relationship. “We are wired to be that way because we are made in the image of God — the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit — and they're in relationship with each other,” said Bonanno. “I just thought that was profound.”

Several organizations were on hand, including the diocesan Office for Marriage, Family and Respect Life, Catholic Charities, Creation Care Commission, the Virginia Catholic Conference, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Mobilizing Network.

“The thought was to bring these groups together under this theme,” said Father Robert C. Cilinski, Nativity pastor and chairman of the Peace and Justice Commission. “All those groups coming together provides a united witness of dignity.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019