ROME, June 19, 2013 ( – In addition to the outdoor Mass celebrated this past Sunday in St. Peter’s Square by Pope Francis and attended by over 200,000, the Vatican also had a full day of events on Saturday to celebrate the 1995 pro-life encyclical of Pope John Paul II, the ‘Gospel of Life’ (Evangelium Vitae). 


Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has written that John Paul II considered this encyclical “central to his entire pontificate.” Pavone also noted that When the encyclical first came out, Newsweek’s religion editor, Kenneth Woodward “praised it as John Paul II’s ‘signature statement’ in history.”

The day began with catechesis on the encyclical in various language groups. The English language session was led by Cardinal Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signitura, Professor and author Francis Beckwith of Baylor College, and Professor Robert Royal, head of The Catholic Thing website.

An Adoration session, organized by the US Conference of Bishops office of pro-life activities, followed the conference and filled one of the Church’s near St. Peter’s Basilica. There the faithful prayed for mercy:

– For the mother who awakens each morning with the memory of abortion fresh in her mind …

– For the father whose child died with his cooperation and consent …

– For the parents who influenced their child’s choice to abort their grandchild …

– For the doctors, nurses and counselors who work at abortion facilities …

– For scientists and pharmaceutical employees who manufacture abortifacient drugs

– For those whose work involves promoting abortion and contraceptive use …

– For elected leaders who oppose any restriction on the abortion license …

– For an end to legal abortion in our nation and for the conversion of all hearts …

– For repentance, healing and peace for those involved in abortion in any way …

As the daylight faded Saturday, thousands participated in an impressive candle-light vigil which processed within Vatican City up the length of the Roman road leading to St. Peter’s Square – Via della Conciliazione. 

LifeSiteNews was asked to participate in the celebration by Fr. Geno Sylva with the Pontifical Council for the promotion of the New Evangelization.  Prayers were read at the beginning and end of the vigil in several languages. LifeSiteNews co-founder John-Henry Westen read the prayers in the English-language.

“The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message,” the prayers stressed. We are, Westen read, “a people of life and for life.”

The procession was made “in silent prayer for those lives lost to the Culture of Death.” 

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelization and Ar  chbishop Zigmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers led the thousands of participants in the procession towards St. Peter’s Square. Hymns were sung as the long procession filed its way into the right side of the square.

Concluding prayers called on the Mother of Jesus to look down “on the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born” and on “the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy.”

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The prayer concluded, “Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time.” And that we may build, “the civilization of truth and love to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life.

See video of Candle-Light Vigil highlights.

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