Pope Francis has appointed two Canadians, Dr. William F. Sullivan, a Toronto family physician and ethicist, and Bistop Noël Simard of Valleyfield, Que., to the Pontifical Academy of Life on June 13. Photos by Michael Swan

Two Canadians appointed to Pontifical Academy for Life

By  Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
  • June 13, 2017

VATICAN CITY – Two Canadians are among the group appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy of Life on June 13.

A total of 50 people from 27 countries were appointed to the advisory body for pro-life efforts, including scientists, professors and experts in medicine and ethics from both religious and secular backgrounds.

Canada is represented by Dr. William F. Sullivan, a Toronto family physician and ethicist, and Bistop Noël Simard of Valleyfield, Que.

Sullivan was first appointed to the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. He’s a founding member of the International Association of Catholic Bioethics and was the founding executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute.

Sullivan is the director of the primary care initiative at the University of Toronto to promote the primary care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He presented to Parliament’s Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted Dying in February last year, prior to the formal adoption of legal voluntary euthanasia in June 2016.

Before his ordination as a bishop of Valleyfield in 2011, Simard was professor of moral theology and bioethics at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. He has served as president of the Catholic Organizations for Life and Family, an arm of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and is one of the authors of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada’s Health Ethics Guide. Last year he led the CCCB efforts to co-ordinate an interfaith statement calling for guaranteed access to palliative care for all Canadians.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, said the appointments will offer the Church and the world a "deep and wise vision in the service of human life, especially life that is weakest and most defenceless."

"Among them are a number of non-Catholics, either belonging to other religions or nonbelievers, a sign that the protection and promotion of human life knows no divisions and can be assured only through common endeavor," he said.

The appointments included Rabbi Fernando Szlajen, an Argentine rabbi with an extensive background in bioethics, and the Rev. Nigel Biggar, an Anglican priest who teaches pastoral and moral theology at Oxford University. Biggar's appointment has not been without controversy as he has said in the past that he supports legal abortion up to 18 weeks after conception.

Founded in 1994 by St. John Paul II, the Pontifical Academy for Life is charged with defending and promoting "the value of human life and the dignity of the person."

In November 2016, Pope Francis issued new statutes for the pontifical academy to widen the scope of its activity and research on life issues.

The new statutes added that the pontifical academy's defense of life must include "the care of the dignity of the human person at different stages of life," as well as "the promotion of a quality of human life that integrates its material and spiritual value with a view to an authentic 'human ecology' that helps recover the original balance of creation between the human person and the entire universe."

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