Religious leaders sign declaration on assisted suicide
Religious leaders sign declaration on assisted suicideChief Rabbinate spokesperson

Christian, Jewish and Muslim envoys on Monday signed and submitted to Pope Francis a joint document that denounced euthanasia and assisted suicide as "inherently" wrong acts that should be forbidden.

"The three Abrahamic monotheistic religions share common goals and are in complete agreement in their approach to end-of-life situations," the document said.

"Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong and should be forbidden with no exceptions. Any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions is categorically rejected," it added.

The document was signed at the Vatican by Rabbi David Rosen for the American Jewish Committee, Vincenzo Paglia for the Vatican, a representative for the Orthodox Church, and Samsul Anwar from the Indonesian Muhammadiyah, an Islamic social and cultural association.

The idea came from Avraham Steinberg, co-president of the Israeli National Council on Bioethics.

Rabbi Ratzon Arusi and Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss, representing, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, traveled to Rome to sign the declaration. Following the directive of Israel's Chief Rabbis, the signing ceremony was held in a special hall in the Vatican and not in one of the prayer rooms.

"I think it's by itself an historic event that the three major religions come together, talk to each other, agree on something and even sign on it," Steinberg told a press conference.

In a letter of support for the declaration, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef wrote, “Killing terminal patients is certainly included under the prohibition ‘You shall not murder’ in the Ten Commandments. Happy is man — every man — that he was created in the Divine Image. Life is a gift from the Creator of the world which we cannot take – Heaven forfend! – from others.”

“However, every effort must be made to ease the suffering and the pain of patients approaching death, medically, spiritually and materially, without hastening their death,” added Rabbi Yosef.

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, wrote, “There is a severe prohibition on causing the death of any person even if he is in a difficult and terminal situation. In certain cases, it is possible to discuss refraining from prolonging life but no action may be carried out to shorten life. Whoever kills the dying, kills.”

The letter was read aloud by Rabbi David Rosen at the ceremony.

Paglia, who is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, added that while death could not always be avoided, "we don't want to help it on its dirty job."

Finally, Marsudi Syuhud, secretary general of the influential Islamic association Nahdlatul Ulama, said: "Protecting life is one of the purposes of Islamic law, that's why we don't stop protecting life until the end of our life."

The document urged medical personnel to listen to their conscience, saying, "No health care provider should be coerced or pressured to either directly or indirectly assist in the deliberate and intentional death of a patient through assisted suicide or any form of euthanasia, especially when it is against the religious beliefs of the provider."

"Moral objections regarding issues of life and death certainly fall into the category of conscientious objection that should be universally respected," it added.

AFP contributed to this report.