WASHINGTON, DC, January 16, 2009 ( – Thousands of Catholics will gather in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray for an end to abortion at the National Prayer Vigil for Life Opening Mass at 7 p.m. on January 21. The date marks the eve of the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Over 16,000 worshipers – many of them youth from schools around the nation – are expected to attend the opening Mass and all-night prayer Vigil and then join tens of thousands more the following day to participate in the national March for Life.

Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass, concelebrated by his fellow cardinals and hundreds of the nation’s bishops and priests.

For the first time there will be two overflow masses this year at the same time as the basilica mass. Attendance the past few years has reached the limit of the basilica. A second Vigil for Life mass will be celebrated at St. Vincent de Paul Chapel, which is also on the CUA campus (can accommodate about 400 – see map at The third mass will be at Notre Dame Chapel on the Trinity College campus not far from Catholic University of America. The chapel can accommodate from 700 to 800. The mass there will be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City.

After the Opening Mass at the basilica there will be confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer according to the Byzantine Rite, and holy hours from midnight until 6 a.m. led by seminarians from across the country. The Basilica and The Catholic University of America will host up to 1,600 pilgrims overnight.

On January 22, the morning of the March for Life, the National Shrine will also host Morning Prayer at 6:30 a.m. and a closing Mass of Penance and Prayer at 7:30 a.m. Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, will be the principal celebrant and homilist.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), The Catholic University of America, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. More information is available at: