Marchers "Giving Visibility" to Life's Dignity
Cardinal Rigali Exhorts Protesters to Patience and Generosity
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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The testimony of a scientist who decided embryos should not be destroyed for research after seeing a human embryo in a microscope is proof that God can use the weak to change the hearts of the strong, said the archbishop of Philadelphia.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the U.S bishops' conference committee on pro-life activities, affirmed this in his homily Monday at the National Vigil for Life. The vigil was one of the events coinciding with today's 35th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The annual March for Life on this date attracts tens of thousands in Washington.
Some 8,000 participants -- many of them youth from middle and high schools -- attended the vigil.
"You have come to our nation's capital to 'give visibility' to your faith, your heritage and your commitment to life from conception to natural death," Cardinal Rigali told the marchers. "Tomorrow you will peacefully protest the injustice of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the 1973 Supreme Court cases that legalized abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
"Tomorrow you will march in solidarity with unborn children, as well as their mothers and fathers and siblings. Tomorrow you will approach your elected officials, calling on them to protect those most at risk, the voiceless and most defenseless members of our human family. But first, tonight! We have set this time aside to pray for an end to abortion, and to receive strength from the Lord."
Using the image of the recently unveiled Knights of Columbus Incarnation Dome in Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Rigali encouraged the protesters: "[God] now sends you out, thousands upon thousands strong, to do your part in forming a vibrant mosaic on behalf of life. You must be the 'rich color' he created you to be. You must play your role in his overarching design, and be patient with others as they seek to do the same."
"Our task is to build a culture of life in which every person is treated with the respect due to his or her human dignity, regardless of age, physical or mental ability, or stage of development," the cardinal stated. "This urgent project is well under way. But we know it is far from complete. 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."
The cardinal encouraged the pro-lifers in respect for human life at all its stages. He noted especially the plight of the elderly.
He said, "When we are strong and able-bodied, feeling in complete control, do we value and protect those who are weak, as Scripture calls them: the 'lowly and despised of the world who count for nothing,' or do they make us feel uncomfortable, uneasy? And when we become weak, will we allow others to care for us in sickness or old age? When frustrated or embarrassed by our incapacity, the helpless Christ Child helps us resist the temptation to despair. Our value does not come from being so-called 'productive' members of society, but from Emmanuel, God always with us."
The cardinal called for humility in dealing with pro-abortion demonstrators who always accompany the pro-life marchers on Jan. 22.
"Then there may be some who will taunt you from the sidelines in angry, accusatory ways," Cardinal Rigali said. "Try not to judge them or to define them by their anger and bitterness. They are fellow human beings in need of reconciliation and healing. They too are invited to a change of heart and to join in the 'great campaign' for life. Many like them have already bent before the gentle power of God’s grace."
The cardinal illustrated a change of heart with the example of "a very influential stem cell researcher, Doctor Shinya Yamanaka."
The doctor "was humbled when he was looking through a microscope at a human embryo in a fertility clinic," the cardinal said.
Quoting a New York Times report, the cardinal continued: "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 Yamanaka, 45, a father of two. 'I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.'"
Cardinal Rigali added: "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," the cardinal affirmed, "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. 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."