WASHINGTON — Pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend filled Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral for a 3 p.m. Mass on Jan. 23, celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades.
Diocesan priests and priests from Notre Dame joined the bishop, along with the diocesan seminarians currently attending Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.
Young people from the four diocesan high schools, as well as colleges and universities throughout the diocese, made up the majority of the congregation.
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades noted that Washington’s cathedral shares its patron with the co-cathedral in South Bend. He listed events in its history including the funeral Mass of President Kennedy in 1963 and a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II on his first U.S. visit in 1979.
Bishop Rhoades focused on a message from that visit, saying, “The Holy Father, almost 32 years ago, proclaimed on our National Mall, with the U.S. Capitol behind him, that ‘we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.’”
Bishop Rhoades continued, “We’re here in Washington this weekend to do what Pope John Paul said, ‘to stand up and proclaim.’ By praying and marching for life here in D.C., we are standing up for the lives of innocent babies in their mothers’ wombs and also for women who are so grievously harmed by the sin of abortion. We are standing up and proclaiming the Gospel of life, the Gospel of true freedom, freedom grounded in moral truth, not the so-called ‘freedom of choice’ which does not liberate, but enslaves those who choose death.”
Diocesan pilgrim Anna McNamara from St. Joseph Parish in Fort Wayne told Today’s Catholic she’s amazed at the number of young people in Washington, D.C., to stand for something they believe in and we need to make a change.
Zac Zumbaugh from St. Bernard Parish in Wabash said he came to the national march because it’s important to send a strong message to our country that abortion is wrong.
Vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Over 10,000 worshippers, many of them youth from schools around the nation, gathered in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray for an end to abortion at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Sunday, Jan. 23, at 6:30 p.m., the eve of the 2011 March for Life. January 22 marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, was the principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass, concelebrated by fellow cardinals and many of the nation’s bishops and priests. Following the Opening Mass, the Vigil continued in the Crypt Church of the basilica with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer according to the Byzantine Rite, and holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from midnight until 6 a.m.
Cardinal DiNardo, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised the young people gathered for the two days of events marking the 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision for being “unflagging witnesses to the inestimable worth of each human person.”
“The sad anniversary recalled each year on Jan. 22 has become an invitation to you, one that calls for prayer and vigiling, for marching and testifying and for a joyous love for human life that is unable to be defeated,” he said during his homily to the young people in attendance.
Returning home after the March for Life ends provides young people the opportunity to continue their pro-life witness to family and friends, both at school and at parishes, Cardinal DiNardo said.
“We are always in need of that conversion, that turning around that the kingdom of heaven invites,” he said. “There is always room for us to deepen our respect for the human person. Not only do we need to see each person in the light of the Gospel, but we also need the jolt from Christ Jesus to see every human person as light.”
The cardinal also called for a unified Catholic Church in the pro-life effort and urged the huge congregation to unite in the body of Christ in the Eucharist.
“If there is a place where our unity must shine it must be in this realm of laboring for the culture of life,” he said. “Anything else will compromise that culture.”
Citing Pope John Paul II’s 1994 encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” which proclaimed the dignity of the human person, Cardinal DiNardo expressed concern that efforts to expand public funding of abortion continue and the conscience rights of health care workers and pharmacists who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures are eroding.
He also expressed hope that recently introduced legislation in the House of Representatives would become law. In particular, he cited three bills introduced Jan. 20:
• The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would prevent governmental discrimination from forcing any health care entity to performing or participating in abortions.
• The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would enact the Hyde amendment which prohibits federal funding of abortion and the Hyde/Weldon amendment on conscience rights for health care workers into law for all federal departments and all avenues of federal funding.
• The Protect Life Act, which would apply long-standing federal policies on abortion funding and conscience rights on abortion to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“These matters deal with public policy and they are issues in the public square in which you can participate,” Cardinal DiNardo told the congregation. “Advocacy on behalf of human life is an important dimension of our pro-life cause.”
The National Prayer Vigil for Life was co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.
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