OTTAWA, Ontario, March 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who has won acclaim for his ardent support of the annual National March for Life on Parliament Hill, reaffirmed his support for the march this week in the wake of the Alberta bishops’ decision to boycott their provincial march over the use of graphic images.
The graphic images are also used by a small number of attendees, though not the organizers, at the National March, which is set for May 12th this year. Signs distributed by the March committee have never included images of aborted children.
“Personally I’m not sure the graphic signs help, so I just look away,” he told Canadian Catholic News. “But the National March is a big umbrella gathering organized by lay people, and they have many approaches to defending life.”
Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton had announced earlier this month that they were pulling out of their provincial march because the organizers couldn’t guarantee that participants wouldn’t bring graphic abortion images.
“It may be that the Alberta bishops’ decision will have an impact on attendance by Ontario and Quebec bishops here in Ottawa,” said Archbishop Prendergast, “but the issue has not been brought to my attention by bishops thus far.”
The Ottawa prelate said Archbishop Gerald Lacroix of Quebec, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, and Toronto Eparch Stephen Chmilar have all indicated they will be attending. He has sent invitations to the other bishops, but said he has yet to receive their replies. He noted that he will be sending a follow-up invitation next month and expects more responses then.
“I believe that the bishops’ support is important,” he said. “Each bishop, like each individual Catholic, needs to make a personal decision about how and in what circumstances to stand up for life, and whether they are compromised by one or other aspect of the March, including, for example, whether they are comfortable with the heckling of the counter-demonstrators.”
In a March 9th blog post, Archbishop Smith had written that the Alberta bishops wanted to “make it clear that the Bishops are not affiliated in any way with such expressions and do not approve of them.” He explained that their participation could indicate support for the graphic images because they were involved in initiating the Alberta march.
The Alberta bishops are opposed to “the public display of large, graphic images of aborted babies,” the bishop said, because they deem it “offends the dignity of the human beings pictured and so is at odds with our mission to promote and protect that dignity.”
In January, Archbishop Prendergast had called on the Ontario councils of the Knights of Columbus to show up en masse at this year’s march in Ottawa. “Your presence as well as a representation from your council would witness to the importance of standing up for life and family in our country,” the archbishop wrote.
The National March for Life has become the largest annual gathering on Parliament Hill. Last year’s march drew 12,500 participation, up from 8,000 two years before. This year’s theme is ‘Abortion Kills a Human Being’.
Archbishop Lacroix, who was recently appointed to Quebec City after Cardinal Marc Ouellet moved to the Vatican, will lead a French Mass before the March at St. Francois d’Assise, and Archbishop Collins will preside at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Eparch Chmilar will concelebrate with Archbishop Prendergast at Notre Dame Cathedral.
For more information visit www.marchforlife.ca. Purchase tickets for the dinners and conference by contacting Campaign Life Coalition Ottawa at 613-729-0379 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets sell fast.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast
1247 Kilborn Place
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9