John Paul II and Jerome Lejeune



Letter written by the Pope John Paul II, to the Cardinal of Paris,

the day after Jerome Lejeune died, April 4, 1994.


" Monsieur le Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archibishop of Paris

I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. (Jn 11:25)

These words of Christ come to mind when we find ourselves faced with the death of Professor Jérôme Lejeune. If the Father who is in heaven called him from this earth on the very day of Christ’s resurrection, it is difficult not to see in this coincidence a sign. The Resurrection of Christ stands as a great testimonial to the fact that life is stronger than death. Enlightened by these words of the Lord, we see the death of every human person as a participation in the death of Christ and in his Resurrection, especially when a death occurs on the very day of the Resurrection. Such a death gives an even stronger testimony to the life to which man is called in Jesus Christ.

Throughout the life of our brother Jérôme, this call was a guiding force; in his capacity as a learned biologist, he was passionately interested in life. In his field he was one of the greatest authorities in the world; various organizations invited him to give lectures and consulted him for his advice; he was respected even by those who did not share his deepest convictions.

We wish today to thank the Creator, “of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” [Eph 3:15 (Douay-Rheims)], for the particular charism of the deceased; one must speak here of a charism, because Professor Lejeune was always able to employ his profound knowledge of life and of its secrets for the true good of man and of humanity, and only for that purpose.

He became one of the ardent defenders of life, especially of the life of preborn children, which, in our contemporary civilization, is often endangered to such an extent that one could think the danger to be by design. Today, this danger extends equally to elderly and sick persons. Human tribunals and democratically elected parliaments usurp the right to determine who has the right to live and, conversely, who could find that this right has been denied him through no fault of his own. In different ways, our century has experimented with such an attitude, above all during the Second World War, yet also after the end of the war.

Professor Jérôme Lejeune assumed the full responsibility that was his as a scientist, and he was ready to become a “sign of contradiction”, regardless of the pressures exerted by a permissive society or of the ostracism that he underwent.

We are faced today with the death of a great Christian of the twentieth century, of a man for whom the defense of life became an apostolate. It is clear that, in the present world situation, this form of lay apostolate is particularly necessary; we want to thank God today – him who is the Author of life – for everything that Professor Lejeune has been for us, for everything that he did to defend and to promote the dignity of human life. In particular, I would like to thank him for having taken the initiative in the creation of the Pontifical Academy pro Vita. A long-time member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Professor Lejeune made all the necessary preparations for this new foundation, and he became its first president. We are sure that henceforth he will pray to the Divine Wisdom for this institution, which is so important and which in large measure owes him its existence.

Christ said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live”. We believe that these words have been accomplished in the life and in the death of our brother Jérôme. May the truth about life be also a source of spiritual strength for the family of the deceased, for the Church in France, and for all of us, to whom Professor Lejeune has left the truly brilliant witness of his life as a man and as a Christian.

In prayer, I unite myself with all those who participate in the funeral, and I impart to all, through the mediation of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris, my apostolic blessing.


The Vatican, April 4, 1994
Joannes Paulus II