Young pro-life marchers are charged with renewing American society. This was the message apostolic nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre delivered to a packed arena Friday morning ahead of the March for Life in Washington, DC.
Addressing the assembly before beginning the Mass at which he was the principle celebrant, the pope’s personal representative in the United States thanked those present “for the witness of your Catholic faith both now at Holy Mass, later on in the streets of Washington, and even more importantly when you return home.”
“Know that you are making a solid contribution to the renewal of American society,” he said.
“For the future of this vast country lies in the hands of young people like yourselves who believe that it has been created as one nation under God, and no human authority has the right to challenge the law of God.”
More than 18,000 pro-life marchers filled the Capital One Arena in downtown Washington January 18 for the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life. Lines had already formed by the time the doors to the area opened at 6:15 am.
The yearly event, organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, begins a day centered around the March for Life.
The rally began with more than two hours of speakers and devotional music, in English and Spanish. Bus-loads of groups from parishes, schools, and colleges from around the country sat in different sections, with many groups wearing matching hats and sweatshirts.
The arena, normally home to the Washington Capitals and Wizards sports teams, appeared full. As a religious sister called out from the stage to groups from states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, and Nebraska, cheering and crowd waves broke out, with the atmosphere more resembling a playoff game than an early morning prayer meeting.
Throughout the rally portion of the morning, long lines formed in the halls of the upper deck of the arena, where priests offered confession to the thousands of arrivals.
While the crowd was dotted with many priests, religious brothers and sisters, parents and teachers, the clear majority of the crowd were young people under 30 years old.
At 9am, the atmosphere shifted to devotional with the recitation of the rosary.
Mass began at 9:20, led by Archbishop Pierre, with Washington auxiliaries Bishop Mario Dorsonville and Bishop Roy Campbell representing the archdiocese. Among the other bishops present were U.S. bishops’ conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, Australia, who was greeted by some in the crowd waving inflatable kangaroos.
During his words of welcome, Pierre delivered a message from Pope Francis to the crowd-turned–congregation.
“His Holiness is deeply grateful for this outstanding witness to the right to life of the most innocent and vulnerable members of our human family,” Pierre read.
The pope wrote that upholding the inviolable dignity of human life and ensuring its protection in law was the challenge of every generation “and especially the young.”
“Respect for the sacredness of every human life is fundamental to the building of a truly good, just, and free society in which each person is valued and welcomed as a brother or sister,” the pope’s message continued.
The crowds emptied onto the streets of Washington after Mass, heading towards their assembly points for this afternoon’s march. As they made their way out of the arena, one religious priest was overheard encouraging the group he was leading.
“Today is about bringing life to people – we’ve been to confession and received Christ in the sacrament, that is the most life we can receive. Let’s bring life to someone else today.”