ROME, May 20, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Francis has expressed his public support for the peaceful pro-life ministry of 40 Days for Life. In a letter sent through his Secretariat of State, the pope said he “greatly appreciates the dedicated work” that the group, which leads people to pray in front of abortion facilities, has undertaken “to promote respect for the lives of all unborn children.”
“His Holiness assures you of his prayerful support for you, your colleagues and all those whose prayer, fasting and sacrifices are saving countless lives and giving glory to God,” the letter says.
The organizers of one of the most successful pro-life campaigns in the world were thrilled to receive a letter of encouragement from Pope Francis this week. Robert Colquhoun, the director of 40 Days for Life London also told LifeSiteNews of a letter of encouragement from Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican’s now-retired delegate to the United Nations.
“We are really honored and blessed to receive positive messages of support and encouragement from both Pope Francis and Cardinal Martino,” Colquhoun said.
The pope’s letter, dated May 7 from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, reads in full:
The Holy Father has received your letter of 12 March last and he has asked me to thank you. He greatly appreciates the dedicated work that you and everyone involved in “40 Days for Life” are engaged in to promote respect for the lives of all unborn children.
His Holiness assures you of his prayerful support for you, your colleagues and all those whose prayer, fasting and sacrifices are saving countless lives and giving glory to God.
Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joyful perseverance in the Lord.
A full screen shot of the letter is below.
Martino, who wrote in his capacity as Honorary President of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, said he was “delighted” to support 40 Days for Life, saying it is “doing immense work witnessing to the importance of every single human life.”
“Thank you for your tireless consistency in opposing what Pope Francis has so often identified as the ‘Culture of Waste’ – and what is more wasted than a human being before it has even had the chance to be born? Commending your mission to the protection of the Madonna, I pray God grants you every further success in saving lives.” You may read his full letter here.
Colquhoun said the demonstrations of support were especially welcome since “some of our volunteers have been persecuted through their peaceful, faithful witness.”
He added that the endorsement could not have come at a better time, given the organization’s recent efforts to expand into numerous European countries.
Colquhoun said the letters affirm that “the laity can play a prominent role in evangelization, and that individual Christians can lead and play a leading role in building a culture of life in their local communities through proven systems that can save lives from abortion.”
“Lay persons do not need to wait or hesitate for local episcopal endorsements to be involved in effective, proven and dynamic pro-life apostolates,” he said.
In the UK the movement is growing rapidly and has enjoyed direct support from, and participation by Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia, Archbishop Longley of Birmingham, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, and Bishop John Rawsthorne of Hallam. Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow has sent an endorsement.
The campaign has been endorsed in the United States by 35 bishops.
“We have had good support from pastors and all these bishops have attended the vigil itself. A teenage mother chose life when Archbishop Longley attended the vigil,” Colquhoun said.
Colquhoun told LifeSiteNews that 40 Days’ most recent campaigns saw a total of 100,000 participants from 3,600 churches, both Catholic and non-Catholic, in 253 locations in 10 countries.
The group says that 728 babies were saved after their mothers decided against abortion upon talking with the participants.
In the period of the campaign, he added, 13 abortion facility workers quit their jobs and eight facilities in the United States were closed.
Since the campaigns started in 2004, organizers estimate 8,973 babies' lives have been saved, 101 workers have quit, and 50 abortion facilities have been closed.
The UK group holds two campaigns a year, one in spring during Lent, and another in autumn. Its success has irritated pro-abortion groups, which have complained that they had little effective opposition at the street level until people started praying in large groups outside their facilities.
British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of Britain’s busiest abortion providers, has been especially vocal, accusing pro-life advocates of “interfering” with the “rights of women” who, they maintain, have already made up their minds about abortion.
The next campaign in the UK is set for September 24-November 2, 2014.
To participate, or for more information, click here.