ROME, December 2 (C-FAM) Last Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI led an unprecedented global prayer vigil for unborn life in Rome that was repeated in countries around the world. Ten thousand faithful jammed St. Peter’s Basilica including many children who were presented to the Holy Father.
In his remarks, the pope offered support to those working in the pro-life movement. “I wish to express my thanks to all who have taken up this invitation and those who are specifically dedicated to welcoming and safeguarding human life in different situations of fragility, especially in its early days and in its early stages,” he said.
“The Church continually reiterates what was declared by the Second Vatican Council against abortion and all violations of unborn life: from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care,” said Pope Benedict.
Speaking of the human being, Pope Benedict warned against utilitarianism. “He has the right not to be treated as an object of possession or something to manipulate at will, not to be reduced to a mere instrument for the benefit of others and their interests,” he said.
“The human person is a good in and of himself and his integral development should always be sought. Love for all, if it is sincere, naturally tends to become a preferential attention to the weakest and poorest,” Pope Benedict said. “In this vein we find the Church’s concern for the unborn, the most fragile, the most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the darkening of consciences.”
Last June, the Vatican announced that a prayer vigil for all nascent life would take place during the annual Vatican Vespers service to mark the opening of Advent, and the new liturgical year for the Catholic Church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was instrumental in getting hundreds of dioceses and parishes to participate in the U.S., and also around the world. The USCCB put together a comprehensive set of resources and prayers for parishes to use who were participating in the vigil. According to Deirdre McQuade in the Pro-Life Secretariat Office of the USCCB, other countries, including Australia, Canada, and parts of Latin America, used these resources.
“Benedict XVI invited us to begin the new liturgical year on our knees in prayer for unborn human life -- and the response was generous,” said McQuade. “Dioceses, parishes, and religious communities across the country joined in solidarity with the Holy Father.”
At the end of the vigil Pope Benedict read from a special prayer he had composed for the occasion. “Reawaken in us respect for every unborn life, make us capable of seeing in the fruit of the maternal womb the miraculous work of the Creator, open our hearts to generously welcoming every child that comes into life,” said the prayer.
The pope stayed behind in St. Peter’s after the vigil for an unusually long time and welcomed families with young children to come forward so that he could extend his papal blessing.