He will also greet bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean as well as pray at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Cuba.
It will be his third visit to the Americas after the United States in 2008 and Brazil in 2007.
After a 14-hour flight from Rome to Mexico, the pope is scheduled to be in Leon, Mexico, March 23-26. After a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Cuba, he will be in Santiago de Cuba and Havana March 26-28. He will arrive back in Rome after a 10-hour flight March 29.
During his trip, Pope Benedict will celebrate three outdoor Masses, including one marking the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba, according to Catholic News Service.
In Mexico, he will have a special meeting with children and a vespers service with bishops from Latin America, and in Cuba he will make a private visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
Here is the schedule for the trip as released by the Vatican Jan. 31. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:
Friday, March 23 (Rome, Leon)
– 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.), Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.
– 4:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.), Arrival ceremony at Guanajuato’s International Airport. Speech by pope.
Saturday, March 24 (Leon, Mexico)
– 8 a.m. (10 a.m.), Mass in private in chapel of Leon’s Miraflores College, where the pope will be staying.
– 6 p.m. (8 p.m.), Courtesy visit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the at the Guanajuato state government house of Conde Rul.
– 6:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.), Greeting to children gathered at Peace Square. Remarks by pope.
Sunday, March 25 (Leon)
– 10 a.m. (12 p.m.), Mass at Leon’s Bicentennial Park. Homily by pope. Recitation of the Angelus. Remarks by pope.
– 6 p.m. (8 p.m.), Celebration of vespers with bishops from Mexico and Latin America in Leon’s cathedral. Speech by pope.
Monday, March 26 (Leon, Santiago de Cuba)
– 9 a.m. (11 a.m.), Farewell ceremony at Guanajuato’s International Airport. Speech by pope.
– 9:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m.), Departure for Santiago de Cuba.
– 2 p.m. (2 p.m.), Arrival ceremony at Santiago de Cuba’s Antonio Maceo International Airport. Speech by pope.
– 5:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.), Outdoor Mass celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. Homily by pope.
Tuesday, March 27 (Santiago de Cuba, Havana)
– 9:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m.), Visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre.
– 10:30 a.m. (10:30 a.m.), Departure from Santiago de Cuba’s Antonio Maceo International Airport for Havana.
– 12 p.m. (12 p.m.), Arrival at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
– 5:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m.), Courtesy visit with Cuba’s President Raul Castro in Havana’s Revolution Palace.
– 7:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.), Meeting and dinner with Cuban bishops and the papal entourage at the apostolic nunciature.
Wednesday, March 28 (Havana)
– 9 a.m. (9 a.m.), Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square. Homily by pope.
– 4:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m.), Farewell ceremony at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
Speech by pope.
– 5 p.m. (5 p.m.), Departure for Rome.
Thursday, March 29 (Rome)
– 10:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.), Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino airport.
Natural law is a concept of objective truth, not religious preference, and reliance on natural law and human rights will move the culture and its laws in the direction of authentic respect for human life, Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York said in an address Jan. 24.
Cardinal-designate Dolan, speaking on “Law & the Gospel of Life,” gave the inaugural talk in a lecture series sponsored by the Institute on Religion, Law and Lawyers’ Work at Jesuit-run Fordham University School of Law.
“Our society has caricatured natural law as some medieval tool the church is using to justify its own unique and antiquated system of teaching. Of course, the opposite is true,” he said. “Natural law theory is not uniquely Catholic, it’s human.
“Some of the greatest exponents of the natural law, like Aristotle and Cicero, never heard of the Catholic Church. These things we teach are not true because they happen to be taught by the church. We teach them because they happen to be true. Their truth antedates the church.”
According to Cardinal-designate Dolan, the most effective way to engage in conversations about human life with people who disagree with the Church’s position is to “untether” discussions of natural law “from what might be thought of as unique Catholic confessionalism” and reference the writings of non-Catholic authors. “It’s not a Catholic thing. It’s a natural thing. It’s a human thing.”
Cardinal-designate Dolan said Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” described the culture of death as one that denies the basic solidarity inherent in the human person, is obsessed with efficiency and convenience, and wages a war of the powerful against the weak.
“Can sustained human rights, girded by law, survive in such a culture?” Cardinal-designate Dolan asked. “The pragmatic, utilitarian world view depends upon sand to construct a system of laws protecting human rights, particularly that of life itself, since everything is constantly being re-negotiated, based on drifting dunes of utility, convenience, privacy, and self-interest.”
According to a Catholic News Service report, Cardinal-designate Dolan said, “It is a bedrock feature of modern political and legal theory that only neutral, utilitarian principles can provide a basis for public policy discussions and law, and that appeals to transcendent values, such as religion, cannot legitimately be presented.”
“The Gospel of life proposes an alternative vision of law and culture, one that provides an antidote to the pragmatic nihilism that produces a culture of death. It seeks to recapture the essential relationship between the civil law and the moral law, and to foster a culture in which all human life is valued and authentic human development is possible.”
Cardinal-designate Dolan said, “The Gospel of life calls us specifically to offer a clear, faith-based view of humanity as a basis for human law. As Christians, we propose that truth can only be known and freedom truly exercised by recognizing that they are a gift from God.”
He said an important proposition of the Gospel of life is “that the dignity of the human person and respect for inviolable human rights are not just based on divine revelation, but on ‘an objective moral law which, as the ‘natural law’ written in the human heart, is the obligatory point of reference for civil law itself.’”
Cardinal-designate Dolan said, “A reliance on the natural law, and human rights, will enable us to move the culture, and thus our laws, in the direction of authentic respect for human life. It will be a gradual, incremental process … and require compromise and acceptance of intermediary steps.”
He described pragmatism, utilitarianism and consumerism as a trinity of related culprits that chisel away at the culture of life and “seem to be ascendant in culture and normative in making laws.”
Cardinal-designate Dolan said, “A baby is useless and impractical from a raw, pragmatic, utilitarian or consumerist view” and is seen by some in the culture of death “as a commodity, an accessory. We have babies, if at all, to satisfy our desires, not to sacrifice for theirs; to fulfill our needs, not to invite us to spend the rest of our lives fulfilling their needs; to reward us, not because we want to give to them.”
“To this culture of death, the church boldly and joyfully promotes the culture of life,” he said.
Cardinal-designate Dolan said people can promote the culture of life by living, speaking and teaching the truth in love. “Usually, we will attract more people by the compelling nature of our love and, in the end, that will be what most hypnotizes and magnetizes people.”
In a response to Cardinal-designate Dolan’s address, Jacqueline Nolan-Haley, a Fordham law professor, said the Gospel of life “is pulling us to bring greater morality and justice to civil law.”
Monica McDaniel, a 2009 Fordham Law graduate and associate at the White & Case firm, said the culture of death has infiltrated private practice and law schools, both secular and Catholic. “Law schools, many nonprofit human rights organizations and the pro bono departments of many law firms are generally confused about human rights because they lack the sound ethical philosophy of the natural law.”
She said “pro-abortion” initiatives dominate the pro bono departments of virtually all major law firms because pro-life lawyers are silent. She encouraged fellow young lawyers to spread the Gospel of life one-on-one, challenge people who make dubious claims and oppose unethical practices.
If the argument against abortion is “grounded in the concept of human equality, you kind of catch people off guard” because “it’s not a religious argument,” a University of Notre Dame law professor told a pro-life crowd gathered at the National Press Club in Washington.
“Biology and modern science have confirmed that the unborn child is as much one of us as anyone in this room, from the moment of conception, a fully integrated self-directed human life, so the question isn’t when life begins, but when moral and legal protection can be ascribed to that life,” said O.C. Snead.
He was among several speakers at “The Law of Life Summit” sponsored by the Ave Maria University School of Law Jan. 21. It was one of several events planned to coincide with the 39th annual March for Life marking the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
According to a Catholic News Service report, the summit drew a number of speakers from pro-life law firms, advocacy groups and other organizations who gave an overview of their work.
Snead has been on the faculty of Notre Dame’s Law School since 2005. His principal area of expertise is public bioethics — the governance of science, medicine and biotechnology “in the name of ethical goods.”
He said he has found the argument that abortion is about human rights to be effective when he has spoken at law schools, the United Nations and UNESCO “to people who are not religious people, who are not in the habit of thinking about pro-life principles but are in the habit of thinking about equality and human rights.”
“Once they understand this is the most fundamental human rights question facing us in the 21st century, it at least gets their attention,” he said.
Stuart Nolan, of the Legal Works Apostolate in Front Royal, Va., suggested that pro-lifers persuade a physician in their community to commit to having a pro-life practice and then enlist a local Knights of Columbus council to sponsor a pregnant woman in need or a single mother and ask that physician to provide her care.
Lawyer Dana Cody with the Life Legal Defense Foundation of Napa Calif., said her organization’s work includes defending people accused of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. In one recent case, a Florida judge dismissed all charges against pro-life advocate Susan Pine, who was charged with violating the law with her sidewalk counseling.
“The court went so far as to question whether the charges brought by the DOJ (Department of Justice) were the product of a collaboration between the government and the abortion clinic to violate Ms. Pine’s free speech rights,” according to Cody’s foundation.
The summit closed with an appearance by Nellie Gray, founder and president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, the group that organizes the annual march. As a lawyer herself, she called for unity among all the lawyers at the summit in efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion “without exception.”
Royce Hood, who is in his third year of law school at Ave Maria University in Florida, organized the summit. As the son of a single mother, the issue of abortion is personal for him, he told Catholic News Service.
He said he also feels that as a pro-life law school, “Ave Maria should be at the forefront of this fight, we should try to unite people and absolutely see an end to Roe.”
Earlier the same day, the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception hosted a book-signing session with two authors: Jesuit Father Robert J. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and founder of the Magis Institute, and Teresa Tomeo, a longtime broadcast journalist who is now a syndicated talk show host on Eternal Word Television Network.
Father Spitzer’s latest book is “Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues,” published by Ignatius. In it he outlines the principles that “form the foundation of civility, justice and objectivity in cultures throughout the world,” and lays out a sophisticated case against abortion.
Tomeo’s book, “Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture,” also published by Ignatius,” looks at how the culture is “going after women” and how women are hurt, “whether it be by body image, eating disorders and sexual objectification.”
She said she based her book on her own experience of being caught up in the “contraceptive culture,” before she came back to the Catholic Church. Tomeo also did “a ton of research,” she said, “about the effects on people of birth control, abortion, whatever and connect the dots back to church teaching and say, ‘Look, what God has designed is the way it is supposed to be. … God’s plan is always the best plan and we see that revealing itself over and over.”
A week after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told individuals and institutions who oppose contraception “to hell with you,” as one bishop put it, members of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy were mobilizing their followers to fight.
Bishops across the country — including Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans and Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. — were preparing letters to be read at all Masses during the Jan. 28-29 weekend.
But one of the most strongly worded reactions to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ Jan. 20 announcement that religious organizations could delay but not opt out of a requirement that all health plans cover contraception and sterilization at no cost came from Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, in a column titled “To hell with you.”
Sebelius and the Obama administration “have said ‘To hell with you’ to the Catholic faithful of the United States,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “To hell with your religious beliefs. To hell with your religious liberty. To hell with your freedom of conscience. We’ll give you a year, they are saying, and then you have to knuckle under.”
He called on Catholics in the Pittsburgh Diocese to “do all possible to rescind” the contraceptive mandate by writing to President Barack Obama, Sebelius and their members of Congress about this “unprecedented federal interference in the right of Catholics to serve their community without violating their fundamental moral beliefs.”
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., enlisted the aid of St. Michael the Archangel in fighting “this unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our faith.”
In a Jan. 24 letter to Peoria Catholics, he directed that the prayer of St. Michael be recited “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America” during Sunday Masses at every parish, school, hospital, Newman center and religious house in the diocese.
The prayer reads in part: “Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil” and “cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
“I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance,” Bishop Jenky said in the letter, according to a Catholic News Service report.
“While it is primarily the laity who should take the leading role in political and legal action, as your bishop it is my clear responsibility to summon our local church into spiritual and temporal combat in defense of Catholic Christianity,” he added. “I strongly urge you not to be intimidated by extremist politicians or the malice of the cultural secularists arrayed against us.”
“We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law,” declared Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix in a Jan. 25 letter.
“Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights,” Bishop Olmsted said. “In generations past, the church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.”
The Catholic bishops of Dallas and Fort Worth said in a joint statement that they “cannot stand by silently” in light of what they called “an unprecedented and untenable abrogation of religious freedom in the United States.”
“This is part of a pattern in the United States that has degenerated from the recognition of religion as good and salutary in our society to religion being subjected to punitive discrimination,” said the statement signed by Bishops Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas and Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth and Dallas Auxiliary Bishops J. Douglas Deshotel and Mark J. Seitz.
They urged the nearly 2 million Catholics in North Texas, along with “other people of good will,” to join them “by speaking out for the protection of conscience rights and religious liberty that are essential to the common good of our nation and in keeping with the basic human rights enshrined in our American way of life.”
Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, in a Jan. 21 statement, called on lawmakers in Washington to “step up, step in, and protect the rights of their fellow citizens from a government mandate that is truly unconscionable.”
“This fight against the federal government’s overreaching exercise of its power is everybody’s fight,” he added.
Archbishop Aymond, who was in Rome for his “ad limina” visit to Pope Benedict XVI, said Jan. 26 that he had already sent a letter to members of Congress protesting the HHS decision and now expected the Catholic faithful to take action.
“This is a critical time and one that will call for us to engage in public dialogue,” he said. “We cannot stand by and allow this to move forward without speaking out.”
Archbishop Aymond said Catholics “must be able to live the message of Christ in the U.S. and follow our conscience.”
“We are not demanding that others live our Christian values, but we should have the right to do so,” he added.
Although both Archbishop Gregory and Bishop Lynch had announced that they would write letters to be read at weekend Masses, the texts of those letters had not been made public as of the afternoon of Jan. 26.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal Jan. 25, Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the HHS decision rejected the “loud and strong appeals” by “hundreds of religious institutions and hundreds of thousands of individual citizens” since the comment period began last August.
He said it is naive to think that contraception and sterilization will be “free” under the HHS mandate.
“There is no free lunch, and you can be sure there’s no free abortion, sterilization or contraception,” he wrote. “There will be a source of funding: you.”
Speaking that evening at Fordham University in New York, the archbishop told reporters that Obama had called him the morning of Jan. 20 “to tell me the somber news” before the HHS decision was announced publicly.
He said he felt “terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed” and found it difficult to reconcile the decision with what the president had told him during a meeting in November — “that he considered the protection of conscience sacred, that he didn’t want anything his administration would do to impede the work of the church that he claimed he held in high regard, particularly in the area of health care, education, works of charity and justice.”
Father Robert Coogan, an American priest based in Saltillo, Mexico, 190 miles southwest of the Texas border at Laredo, said soldiers and police burst into the Christ the Prisoner Chapel, “broke open the tabernacle and threw the hosts to the ground and walked on them.”
“The prison has been searched before, but the soldiers or police never committed sacrilege,” Father Coogan said in an email to Catholic News Service.
Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo expressed his displeasure with the Jan. 24 raid and sacrilege, saying in a statement issued the same day, “No possible explanation exists that justifies what happened.”
“We’re deeply outraged by these acts because, in addition to attacking the faith of the majority of the Mexican people, they violate the rights of religious freedom,” said the statement distributed by the Diocese of Saltillo.
Bishop Vera has promised to celebrate Mass Jan. 27 outside the prison for those wishing to protest the sacrilege.
For the past decade, Father Coogan has ministered to inmates in the Saltillo lockup, where conditions have deteriorated to the point that Los Zetas, the cartel of soldiers-turned-enforcers, wield authority over the prison population.
The National Human Rights Commission said last year in its most recent prison survey that “self-rule” was present in the facility. The warden was murdered in a hit outside of the prison in December.
Coahuila state officials told reporters the raid was carried out at the request of the administration of Gov. Ruben Moreira Valdez. The governor, along with his brother, former Gov. Humberto Moreira Valdez, have been at odds with Bishop Vera and the Diocese of Saltillo.
The diocese said the more than 450 soldiers and police found “150 grams” (5.25 ounces) of synthetic drugs, cans of beer, hard liquor and more than 100 knives, along with refrigerators, TVs, video game consoles, microwave ovens and approximately $400 in cash.
Father Coogan said prisoners always have had appliances, which are permitted and used to keep and prepare food brought by family members — who, in Mexico, often end up feeding their imprisoned loved ones.
“The poor families who sacrifice to make the life of their imprisoned members a little easier are the most affected” by the raid, he said in a Catholic News Service report.
“We must embrace the Gospel of life in the depth of our souls in such a way that it continually transforms us: bringing us to our knees in repentance for our own failures against human dignity; filling us with joy and gratitude for God’s gift of human life; permeating our minds and hearts with bedrock convictions, born of faith and reason, about the inviolable dignity of human life at every stage,” he said.
Bishop Lori was the homilist at a Jan. 21 Mass celebrated in conjunction with the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life at Georgetown University. The conference is named after the late Cardinal John O’Connor, who was archbishop of New York from 1984 to 2000.
In recalling the Old Testament story of Jonah bringing the ancient city of Nineveh to repentance, which was used as one of the readings for the Mass, Bishop Lori said that Nineveh was an “apt symbol” for the United States.
“In spite of a growing secularity, Americans remain, overall, a religious people,” he said. “Years of pro-life witness have also moved the needle. More Americans account themselves as pro-life today than at any time since the Supreme Court’s toxic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973″ that legalized abortion virtually on demand.
“Young people, in particular, are now casting a critical eye on the culture of abortion, maybe asking themselves if they were once considered a choice rather than a person,” Bishop Lori added in the Catholic News Service report.
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Lori said, “The forces of secularism seek to impair and impeded the church’s witness.”
He cited the Jan. 20 announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandating most religious employers to include free contraceptive and sterilization in insurance for their workers if they offer health plans to them, and “our government’s denial of contracts to Catholic agencies that serve victims of human trafficking and victims of disasters because these agencies refuse to provide what is euphemistically called ‘the full range of reproductive services’ — read, of course, abortion.”
Bishop Lori said, “Not only are these overt coercions directly aimed against our faith, they are also egregious affronts to our nation’s founding principles. So, in bearing witness to the Gospel of life, we are also bearing witness to religious liberty.”
Far from being the enemy of calm and quiet, social media and the Internet can lead people to virtual sanctuaries that offer silent reflection, thoughtful dialogue and true meaning in life, he said in a Catholic News Service report.
“Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God,” he said in his message for the 2012 celebration of World Communications Day.
Even brief posts and viral tweets can carry potent messages when people use those tools — not for spamming or for scanning the latest gossip — but for sharing a real part of themselves, he said.
“In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives,” he said.
The theme of this year’s World Communications Day — marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, this year May 20 — is “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” The papal message was released on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers, Jan. 24.
At a news conference on the message’s release, Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said there is a huge difference between a “semantic silence” that can be rich in or bolster meaning versus “keeping quiet” and ignoring the realty.
“There are situations where I must speak up,” he said, because otherwise “my silence would be a betrayal,” especially when witnessing injustice.
The kind of silence that needs cultivating isn’t the kind that alienates people, but that leads people to a greater awareness and sensitivity of others and their needs, he said.
When asked how the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle on television and talk shows could feasibly implement the benefits of silence, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who also heads Vatican Radio and the Vatican television center, said silence is used when one truly listens to the other.
A talk show or debate in which each participant could speak and be heard without others trying to outshout or interrupt “would already be a step forward,” the priest said.
In his message, the pope acknowledged that “silence is often overlooked,” but is especially important today.
Silence, words, images and sounds need “a kind of eco-system,” that is, to find a harmonious, symbiotic balance “if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved,” he said.
Words without reflection and silence without meaning result in confusion, coldness and communication breakdown, he said.
Silence builds meaning, clarity and creativity since “we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth;” and people have the time to choose how to best express themselves, he said.
Listening to others requires silence, and “we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested,” he said.
Moments of quiet and calm allow people to sift through, process and evaluate the information they’re bombarded with, figure out what is important or secondary, discover connections and “share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge,” the pope said.
The pope underlined the importance of digital media — a theme he has championed in his three previous communications day messages.
Search engines and social networks aid people in their innate thirst for answers and the truth, he said.
Because many people launch queries online about the deepest meanings of life, it is important for the church “to affirm those who ask these questions and open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection,” he said.
He said silence is also key to the new evangelization — the central theme for the world Synod of Bishops that will meet in October.
“If God speaks to us even in silence, we, in turn, discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God,” he said.
Language, in fact, fails to encompass and truly communicate God’s grandeur; the extent of his love, power and mercy sink in with silent contemplation, and from that awe-inspiring awareness springs forth “the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation” to share Christ and his word with others, he said.
The complete text of the pope’s message in English is available online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20120124_46th-world-communications-day_en.html.
The text in Spanish is available online at: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20120124_46th-world-communications-day_sp.html.
Mark Hosbein stood on the corner of a busy Washington intersection under the steady rain Jan. 23 with a small duffle bag at his feet and a simple message for passers-by: “Please consider spiritually adopting an unborn baby who is in danger of abortion.”
Handing a reporter one of his brochures, Hosbein said as president of Hearts For Life, he is following the lead of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who promoted the idea of spiritual adoptions for the unborn years ago.
People who commit to such an adoption agree to pray once a day for a year for an unborn child, he explained. “Our belief is God will save the life of the baby. It’s a simple and powerful devotion.”
Hosbein, a member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis, said in the past five or six years, his organization has passed out 100,000 of his brochures.
He was among several people hanging out signs and literature to pro-lifers as they walked toward the March for Life rally on the National Mall near the Smithsonian Castle. From the castle, the Washington Monument in one direction and the Capitol in the other were barely visible, as they were shrouded in fog.
The weather in Washington was uncooperative, with intermittent rain and temperatures hovering in the high 30s.
But as most years when the weather was bad, the tens of thousands of pro-lifers, a majority of them high school and college age, were undeterred, descending on the nation’s capital to mark the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
As they streamed toward the rally site from various points, rallygoers carried signs that declared their pro-life views. Among the messages were: “Adoption is an option,” “Every time a baby is aborted, love is denied,” “Praying for a culture of life” and “If it’s not a baby, you’re not pregnant.”
One woman wrote her message on the back of her yellow rain poncho: “God is pro-life: Thou shalt not kill.” One group carried yellow balloons that simply said “Life.”
Near the rally site stood Erin Connelly from the Syracuse, N.Y., area, who was wearing a handmade sandwich board that declared: “Save the baby humans!” A member of St. Patrick Parish in Chittnengo, Connelly said it was her second rally and march.
She said she was inspired for the day ahead by the Mass celebrated that morning by Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
She said she doesn’t know about other communities but in her community back home, there is a lot of respect for life.
A group of young people from the Diocese of Victoria stood near the speakers’ platform. They were all wearing yellow hooded sweatshirts with this message on the back: “Death Roe Survivor.” The slogan was created by 16-year-old Ted Wenske, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Moulton. He was there, he told Catholic News Service, “because life from the moment of conception to death is sacred. Life should always be treated with respect.”
Ashley Martinez, 13, of Potomac Oaks, Md., admitted that her parents had made her attend, but she said she does believe the nation “should stop abortion because it’s bad. It’s a human life.”
Boston University junior Brad Agostinelli of Rochester, N.Y., said he has grown in his Catholic faith over the past couple of years and his conviction that abortion is wrong had only grown stronger.
Heather Wilson, 28, a member of a nondenominational Christian church in Pennsylvania, held a sign that said, “Stop unborn pain.”
She told CNS, “I’m here to put my feet in the direction of what my heart believes.”
Americans “as a people are pro-life” because life and liberty “are intertwined and form the core of our national character,” House Speaker John Boehner told the crowd gathered on the National Mall Jan. 23 for the 39th annual March for Life.
“God who gave us life gave us liberty,” said the Ohio Republican, who is a Catholic. He added that his pro-life stand isn’t political, “it’s just who I am.”
He and the other members of Congress who spoke at the rally said they were proud they had passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and the Protect Life Act and voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., a Catholic who is chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, told the rallygoers that they were “an important part of the greatest human rights movement on earth — the selfless struggle by prayer, fasting and works to defend and protect all weak and vulnerable persons from the violence of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.”
According to Catholic News Service, he also told the crowd, “The violent destruction of a child in the womb is not an American value.”
More than an hour before the rally kicked off, thousands of pro-life marchers, the majority of them high school and college-age youths from across the country, began to fill in the space around the speakers’ platform under overcast skies.
The temperature hovered in the high 30s. Intermittent rain forced marchers to put on ponchos and assorted rain gear and pull out their umbrellas. The wet weather left the National Mall a soggy and muddy patch, which marchers slogged through after the rally as they headed to Constitution Avenue, past the Capitol and up to the Supreme Court.
The rally opened with the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a joint Catholic-Orthodox prayer delivered by Metropolitan Jonah of All America and Canada. Religious leaders on the platform included Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Nellie Gray, now 86, kicked off the speeches. She is the founder and president of the March for Life Education & Defense Fund, the group that organizes the march.
She told the crowd that their consistency in showing up in such great numbers to mark each of the 39 anniversaries since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion “shows we love our country and love our preborn children. We also love the abortionists we’re trying to educate.”
She called for Roe to be overturned “without any exception” and urged unity “on the life principles” she and her organization have espoused since the Supreme Court handed down its abortion decision.
Just as the Nuremberg trials after World War II “taught us genocide is a crime against humanity,” the federal government must understand that abortion is “a crime against humanity,” said Gray.
According to the poll, 79 percent of those surveyed said they would not allow abortion in the first three months of pregnancy. And 51 percent said they would allow abortion only in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life — or not at all.
The poll’s numbers are almost unchanged from a similar poll taken two years ago, according to a Catholic News Service report.
The survey responses were released in Washington Jan. 23, the date of this year’s March for Life.
According to the poll results, 84 percent said they believe that laws can protect both the life of the unborn and the health and well-being of women. This is up from 81 percent from the 2010 survey.
“Almost four decades after the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which resulted in the almost totally unrestricted abortion regime of today, these decisions continue to be out of step with the vast majority of Americans,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
“Far from being settled law, the inadequacy of the court’s reasoning on abortion in Roe and Doe is readily apparent to most Americans. Once a survey moves beyond the labels of pro-life and pro-choice, we see a fundamental unity among Americans in favor of significant abortion restrictions,” Anderson said.
The abortion questions were part of a broader survey, the results of which will be released in February.
The telephone survey, conducted Dec. 15-27, was based on the responses of 1,053 adults living in the continental United States. The results have a margin of error within plus or minus 3 percentage points.