WASHINGTON (January 21, 2004) -- Thousands of Catholics from across the country will gather in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the Vigil Mass for Life and National Prayer Vigil for Life tonight, the eve of the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The Vigil Mass for Life is the largest annual Catholic Mass in the United States. While the Mass solemnly notes the millions of unborn lives lost because of the Roe decision, and the countless women who suffer emotionally and physically from their abortion experience, this year's participants can also mark with thanks the enactment of the partial birth abortion ban, and the renewed pro-life sentiment among a majority of the American people, especially among youth.
As in the past, thousands of participants are expected to attend the vigil and participate the next day in the March for Life. After the Mass, the Basilica and the Catholic University of America will host more than 1,500 high school students and other pilgrims from around the country. Because of the traditionally huge presence of young people at the vigil, a Youth Rally with Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington will also be held the next day, starting at 9:00 am at the MCI Center.
The Vigil Mass for Life and National Prayer Vigil for Life are sponsored by the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), The Catholic University of America, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Also assisting is the organization Seminarians for Life International.
Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore and Chairman of the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass for Life. This Mass will be celebrated in the Great Upper Church at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 21.
A concluding Mass will be celebrated Thursday, January 22 at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church, with Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, as principal celebrant and homilist.
Media are welcome to speak with and interview pilgrims and to attend the Mass. Footage from the Mass can also be obtained by Satellite TV feed (backhaul; five cameras) courtesy of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) at Galaxy 10, Transponder 22 (KU signal; analog band).