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All-night prayer vigil empowers pro-life youths

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“If we don’t defend life, no other rights matter.”

Kansas City Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s firm words quoting Pope John Paul II reverberated from the sanctuary to the nave of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington the evening of Jan. 23.

The pews and side chapels were packed with people attending the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life, which drew around 10,000 people from across the country for the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion in the United States.

Archbishop Naumann, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, celebrated the Mass. “These early days of 2020, there are signs of hope,” he said in his homily, adding that a new generation has arisen that is “more pro-life than their parents.”

The basilica was filled with student groups in an array of brightly colored sweatshirts emblazoned with pro-life messages. Archbishop Naumann asked them to hold fast to their beliefs, even when ridiculed by their peers. “Jesus never promised that discipleship would be easy,” he said. “We must be willing to follow Jesus all the way to Calvary. It takes heroism today to stand for the sanctity of human life.”

Many college students from The Catholic University of America volunteered at the Mass and vigil.  Franchetta Groves said these kinds of events can inspire pro-life students to start dialogues in the hopes of changing minds. “I think people say they’re pro-choice, but when you talk to them, they’re not actually as pro-choice as they think they are,” she said. “When you show them that the pro-life movement is about love, you give them a lot of hope. You do see that conversion sometimes.”

Concelebrating were Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the pope’s representative to the U.S. as apostolic nuncio, several cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests. Pope Francis sent word to those gathered through Archbishop Naumann. “My friends,” Archbishop Naumann said to cheers, “the successor of Peter has our backs.”



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020