WASHINGTON, D.C., January 28, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The spirit of the National Memorial Service for the Preborn and their Mothers and Fathers was best expressed during the prayer recited as a candle was lit on stage: “We now light the Life Candle, remembering the innocent lives lost and the hope of reconciliation and healing found in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.”
In historic Constitution Hall on Saturday morning, an ecumenical gathering of 100 or more clergy members encouraged a crowd of hundreds to be active, to pray, and to offer grace and mercy to everyone who had ever taken part in an abortion – including the abortionists.
“Jane Roe, Norma McCorvey, she sends to you this morning her prayerful greetings, and she sends her requests for our prayers,” said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, during his dynamic homily, entitled “Recall Abortion.”
“She still has terrible wounds for having been the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade,” he said.
Between litanies of repentance and readings for post-abortive women – and men – and the unborn themselves, speaker after speaker said the violence of abortion can only be stilled when it meets the calm of forgiveness.
“We have to put aside the scarlet letters and the condemnation and show we really do care about those who are frightened, alone, and in trouble,” said Joe Schwartz, reading a statement written by his father, Michael. “The focus is to be upon the mother.” He also asked people to pray for the conversion of abortionists.
Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., led a litany for those who had died from abortions, beginning with Tonya Reaves, who passed away last year after an abortion at Planned Parenthood, and naming as many as she could. The response was, “Lord, have mercy on them.”
Kelly and Matt Clinger shared their testimony of abortion heartbreak, receiving a standing ovation before leving to fly out to the San Francisco Walk for Life.
One of the morning's two award recipients also reminded everyone present that millions more women will suffer trauma thanks to China's one-child policy.
“Since 1980 when the one-child policy was instituted, the Chinese Communist party boasts that they have prevented 400 million lives, which is greater than the entire population of the United States,” said Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers.
The policy often employs forced abortions, in which the Chinese government kidnaps women from their homes, aborts without anesthesia – and then charges them for the procedure.
“The greatest hemorrhage in the world today is flowing out of China,” she said. “This is the real war against women...Where is the pro-choice movement on this issue?”
“I had no idea what they were doing in China,” 17-year-old Elaina Choo of from Tacoma, Washington, told LifeSiteNews.com. “It brought me to tears.” She said she wanted to learn as much as she can about protecting life, at home and abroad.
Littlejohn received the Pro-life Recognition Award. The award was also given to Michael Schwartz, a movement stalwart who served as chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn. Schwartz, who is ill, sent his son Joe to received both that award and another from the Catholic business organization Legatus.
Fr. Frank Pavone's sermon brought the focus back to the United States. While the culture of life asks how it may sacrifice itself for others, the culture of death sacrifices others for itself, he said.
“Isn't it amazing that the very same words used by the culture of death to justify abortion are the words used by our Lord to proclaim life and salvation and love: This is my body!'”
“The pro-life movement arose, not primarily as a response to Roe vs. Wade, but as a response to Jesus Christ,” he said. “Abortion is the greatest violation of human solidarity, justice, love, and peace.”
He lamented that even in churches the issue of life is ostracized as "too political." And "when we speak about it in politics, we're told it's too religious,” he said. “In the world of media the topic is too disturbing. In the world of business it's too distracting. In the world of education it's too controversial. In the streets it's too disruptive.”
“So if abortion is wrong, where do we go to say so?” he asked. “We go into the churches, into politics, into the media, into the business world, into education, and into the streets!”
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The clergy's religious diversity showed, however, that the pro-life message is welcome in segments of many churches. “I think we have a denomination for every letter of the alphabet,” said Rev. Rob Schenck.
But Fr. Pavone had no intention of preaching to the choir. He outlined a specific response to every segment of society, calling on the Republican Party “to live out more courageously and consistently the words of its platform concerning the right to life of the unborn”; on the Democratic Party “to change the words of its platform regarding the unborn” and represent “the poorest of the poor, the weakest of the weak, the most marginalized of the marginalized”; on Barack Obama “to change his position” and acknowledge our youngest neighbors; and for government at all levels to “take it off the market, rid America of this failed and destructive product, this false and empty promise.”
All the speakers on the dais stood for life with “no exceptions,” the phrase of March for Life founder Nellie Gray, whose absence hung heavily in every event associated with the first march after her death.
“It was as though a member of my family – my mother or my father – had died,” said Pastor Luke Robinson in his tender personal remarks.
“She gave a national audience to Silent No More,” he said. “She also did that for the African-American community.”
Following her example, hundreds vowed before God to remain faithful witnesses for the most defenseless children.
“Today I commit myself never to be silent, never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn,” they prayed. “I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, and never to stop defending life until all my brothers and sisters are protected, and our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all.”
The 19th annual service left everyone who attended uplifted. “I'd been wanting to come for a few years,” Choo told LifeSiteNews. “It was just wonderful.”
The service was sponsored by the National Pro-life Religious Council, the National Pro-life Center, Gospel of Life Ministries, the National Clergy Council, Priests for Life, Faith and Action, and National Pro-life Radio. It was also cosponsored by Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life.