WASHINGTON, D.C., January 27, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Timothy Dolan subtly weaved a pro-life message with themes that Pope Francis has consistently emphasized on immigration and the environment in his homily on Thursday evening at the opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life.
Dolan, the archbishop of New York, presided over the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the jam-packed National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception that included five cardinals, 40 bishops, 320 priests, 90 deacons, 545 seminarians and a congregation of approximately 12,000.
In a homily that lasted less than 10 minutes on the eve of the annual March for Life, Cardinal Dolan repeatedly drew a parallel between the Church and the mother's womb as a sacred sanctuary.
“As we are heartened by His holy word, as we are nourished by the bread of angels, as we are sent out in confidence for our pro-life testimony tomorrow all in union with Jesus our high priest, we do indeed, my brothers and sisters, have confidence within this sanctuary this evening,” said Dolan, the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Abortion has legally violated the sacred temple of the mother's womb since Roe v Wade was passed 44 years ago. Though pro-lifers are stunned by the swift steps taken by President Trump's new administration to defend the sanctity of life in the first week since he has taken office, Dolan made only general, non-political references to those positive first steps.
“Behold the baby in the sanctuary of the womb. Once that sanctuary is violated, once that society deems it legal to invade it, the integrity of the natural and the supernatural are ruptured and we have no place safe and secure left to go,” he said. “So this evening in this sanctuary we praise you, dear God, for those assurances and encouragements this evening.
“We have confidence in the sacredness of sanctuary, the sanctuary you intended, this earth, this life, your church, the womb to be, to protect your children. And we entrust to you all of our efforts to oppose sacredness, the sanctuary of human life itself.”
Dolan also mentioned that the sanctuary extends outside the Church to the environment. That reference is in accord with Pope Francis' 2015 Laudato si' encyclical that included references to global warming as well as last year's “ecological conversion” message suggesting Catholics confess sins harmful to creation such as failing to recycle paper and plastic.
“We come together this sacred evening in a church we claim as a sanctuary in a land historically termed a sanctuary on a planet the creator intended as an environment of sanctuary,” Dolan said. “Why? To reclaim the belief that our mother's womb is the primal sanctuary where a helpless, innocent, fragile, tiny baby must be safe, secure, nurtured and protected.”
“Should it shock us, my friends, as Pope Francis asks, in his ongoing global examination of conscience, that a culture that violently intrudes upon the life of a baby in the sanctuary of his or her mother's womb would soon lose reverence for all places intended by God as safe, secure and nurturing?”
“That such a society would begin to treat for instance the sanctuary of her survival as a toxic waste dump. We begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of a sanctuary where families are protected and fostered.”
Cardinal Dolan spoke briefly of immigration, a political hot potato that potentially puts the Trump administration and the U.S. bishops in opposite camps. He recalled the Pilgrims who sought refuge from religious harassment in England and the grandparents and ancestors who left their native countries for “sanctuary” in America.
“Today, refugees and immigrants continue to believe that this nation is still a sanctuary as they arrive in relief and thanksgiving, and we pray this evening that they're never let down,” he said.
While many of the Massgoers might not have picked up on Cardinal Dolan's inferences to the environment and refugees, the message of unity with Pope Francis was clear to those who closely follow global Church news, particularly from Rome.
Near the end of Mass, there was prolonged applause when the Archdiocese of Washington announced that March for Life events would be moved up as much as an hour in some cases to accommodate heightened security checks for Vice President Mike Pence's appearance.