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State of the Union
March for Life Vigil Mass
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, gave a sort of “state of the union” address during his homily at the Vigil Mass for the March for Life Wednesday night at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C.
It was a pro-life status report, interrupted frequently by thunderous applause from the Mass-goers.
He acknowledged the inauguration of the first African-American president, but also pledged to “raise our voices in respectful but impassioned protest when we must.”
He reminisced about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the shrine nine months ago and the theme, “Christ our Hope.”
The cardinal acknowledged that pro-lifers have experienced exclusion or derision from others because of their beliefs. And that people have been deceived into thinking “abortion is a simple procedure with no consequences for their physical, emotional, spiritual and eternal well-being.” But he added that the consequences can be “devastating and eternal.”
Cardinal Rigali mentioned the Freedom of Choice Act, calling it the most radical pro-abortion legislation we have ever faced. Quoting Cardinal Francis George, president of the bishops’ conference, he said “pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.” This prompted huge applause.
He spoke to the young people, many of whom would spend the night in sleeping bags in the basement of the basilica, prior to making the trek to the Verizon Center in the morning for a rally and to the Mall for the March for Life. He asked them to inspire hope in their bishops and priests.
Cardinal Rigali reminded the crowd that some people say the pro-life movement is history and they should pack up and go home. “Yet you do not look to me as though you are heading home,” he said.
“We await the day when all human life will be protected in law and cherished in every human heart,” he said.
The upper church was packed and an overflow crowd filled the crypt church to watch the liturgy on large screens. A makeshift camp of sleeping bags, air mattresses and pillows littered the floor of the basilica’s lower level. Someone left little handwritten notes on sleeping bags urging people to become chastity speakers.
One man napped on a bench just yards from a white marble statue of the Blessed Mother surrounded by votive candles, trying to catch a few winks before what would likely be a long night of prayer, discussion and little sleep in advance of Thursday’s activities.
Dave Borowski, Gretchen R. Crowe and Stephanie Tracy will cover the day’s activities and report back from Washington. Look for their continuous coverage.