Pro-Life Mass Packed to the Rafters with over 8000+, 400+ Priests, 34 Bishops, 6 Cardinals

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, January 22, 2008 ( - Working your way from the front to the back of the packed Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was a near impossibility Monday night, and even if you could make the journey it required an extensive amount of time and effort.  The frigid temperatures outside were no match for the heat generated by the overflow crowd which caused many to fan themselves with brochures during the Prayer Vigil for Life Opening Mass.

Yet despite the throng there was a sense of the sacred and the awesomeness of life at the Mass offered on the eve of the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.  As the incense wafted up and the opening hymns were sung, a procession of hundreds of seminarians, over 60 deacons, over 400 priests, 34 bishops and archbishops, and 6 cardinals made their way to the marble sanctuary.

In addition to the sea of roman collars, various groups of men and women religious arrayed in their distinctive habits dotted the basilica.  Groups from different dioceses across the nation identified themselves with colored scarves and sweaters.  But far and away the bulk of the congregation was youth, youth who also filled the crypt of the church below the main floor.

The excitement in the air, the massive crowd and the presence of so many clergy, including the highest ranking in the land, may have been a distraction at times, but there was nevertheless reverent prayer.  Sincere and heartfelt pleading with God to end the scourge of abortion went up from thousands of hearts.

The main celebrant, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and the Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, delivered a homily which was warmly received by all present for its strength and clarity.

“We are reminded daily of the many direct threats to life through abortion, human embryo experimentation, and the false mercy of assisted suicide and euthanasia,” said the Cardinal.  “Tomorrow as you march, you will be surrounded by many courageous witnesses to the dignity of life. All the marchers are different from one another, and yet unified in one common goal: bringing an end to abortion and all attacks on life, and building a culture that always welcomes life!”

“It is when we least expect it that the tiniest among us can humble the powerful,” he continued. “One day not long ago, a very influential stem cell researcher, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, was humbled when he was looking through a microscope at a human embryo in a fertility clinic. As the New York Times reports: "The glimpse changed his scientific career. ‘When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,’ said Dr. Yamanaka, 45, a father of two. ‘I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way’."

  To applause, Cardinal Rigali noted: “If God can use a helpless embryo to change a human heart, He can certainly use us with all our limitations and weaknesses.”

“Dear friends: by seeking holiness and using the gifts God has given you to accomplish His will in your life, you are contributing mightily to that Kingdom we all long for, where there will be no more crying or pain or death,” said the Cardinal.  “Certainly no abortion. No euthanasia. No assisted suicide. No deep-freezing of embryos as though they were merchandise. And no destruction of human life in the name of science,” he added to more applause.

In the name of Jesus Christ, said Cardinal Rigali, in his closing remarks, “you are also called to pray for an end to abortion in the United States and throughout the world. Roe v. Wade is incompatible with human dignity. It must not stand. It cannot stand. It will not stand.”

As the lengthy recession commenced the huge organ accompanied by thousands of young strong voices belted out "Holy God we Praise Thy Name".

Returning by subway (metro) to hotels across DC, throngs of youth chanted, clapped and did "the wave" on the platform in a joyful celebration.  The spiritual preparation for the March for Life had concluded and the excitement and anticipation of the March itself was growing as the minutes passed.

Although the youth were loud, there was nothing threatening in their antics (even when they resorted to college chants).  There was joy, there was jubilation, there was an infectious sense of fun.  These are the youth of America, the bright future of America.  And nothing could have stamped home that message more clearly than the belting out of the national anthem on that subway platform by thousands of hearty voices.

  See more photos at

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