Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.
“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when
the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb
protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his
homily during the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for
Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate
The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which
takes place on the National Mall.
Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’
Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which
beckons us, where we are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet
strong embrace, where the Creator himself assures us of protection and
life itself, a sanctuary God has designed for us to protect our lives
now and in eternity.”
He summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history,
including those used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in
Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of
cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries from violence, and the United
States — first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing religious
violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but
“clinging within to that ‘pearl of great price,’ their faith,” and
today’s immigrants and refugees.
When life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a
society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment
as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods
as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and
fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of
brothers,” Cardinal Dolan lamented.
Shrine officials estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass,
which was shown on three cable channels and broadcast on two radio
networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians, 90 deacons, 320
priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance
The faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the
left transept were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the
shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should be completed by next year’s March
for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss of “several hundred” seats,
according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.
Auxiliary Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received hearty
applause when he announced near the end of the Mass that the starting
times for three pre-March for Life Masses elsewhere in Washington the
next morning would be moved up an hour to allow for longer lines in
security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those speaking at
it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.”
name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice
President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person.
After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the
National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme
The weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the
Jan. 26 Mass to a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff
winds before a Jan. 27 morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by
Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary.
Archbishop Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal
Dolan’s in terms how acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other
disrespect for life at various stages, citing assisted suicide,
euthanasia, the death penalty and the rejection of immigrants. Quoting
from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them
come to me, let them come to me.'”
He received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when
he cited the results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in
the United States has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop
Aymond said the study speculated on various reasons for the decline,
but “one was not” mention.
That reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said.
“Youth and young adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our
church,” he added to applause. “You are making a difference in the
United States. You are changing our culture from a culture of death into
a culture of life,” the archbishop said to still more applause.
During the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes
and neighborhoods, Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness,
and with God’s help, we will continue to be strong voices for the
respect and the dignity of human life.”