By Kathleen Gilbert

ARLINGTON, Virginia, March 12, 2010 ( - Bishop Paul Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington has declared Monday, March 15 a day of prayer and fasting with the intention of protecting pro-life values in health care legislation. The announcement comes at the same time as President Obama's abortion-expanding health care bill churns toward a conclusion just outside the borders of the diocese, on Capitol Hill.

"Catholic teaching tells us that our support for the dignity of life includes access to affordable health care. This support, however, cannot come at the expense of the respect for life at all stages, from natural conception to natural death," wrote Loverde in a letter posted on the diocesan website.

Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives currently face enormous pressure from the Senate and White House to pass the entire Senate health care bill, which contains numerous pro-abortion provisions and has been deemed by pro-life leaders "the biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade." A House panel is expected to begin reviewing the Senate bill on Monday.

Loverde called for prayer and fasting from members of the diocese "as negotiations that are now underway could lead to further Congressional action [on health care] very soon." The intention, said the bishop, would be "for protecting the life, dignity, health and conscience rights of every human person in any legislation that Congress considers."

"I firmly believe that, working together while open to God’s wisdom, the citizens of our nation can respect the dignity of each human person both in law and in practice," he wrote. "Through our fasting and prayers, we ask the Lord to lead the hearts and minds of our nation’s leaders as they make crucial decisions concerning the protection of life."

Loverde also urged Catholics in the diocese to lobby members of Congress, and to keep up with developments on the health care bill via electronic media, such as the Virginia Catholic Conference e-mail network.