Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 19, 2021 / 02:50 pm (CNA).- After the national March for Life announced last week it would be taking place virtually, the U.S. bishops’ pro-life chair has exhorted Catholics to prayer instead.
“Peaceful prayer and witness must and will continue this year—just in a different format,” Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, stated on Tuesday.
The archbishop encouraged Catholics who originally planned to attend the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 29, to instead unite in prayer beginning on Thursday, Jan. 21, the eve of the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The 9 Days for Life novena will continue until Jan. 29.
The March for Life is an annual peaceful pro-life gathering in Washington, D.C. in protest of abortion. It has occurred every year since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Annually attended by pro-life advocates from all over the U.S., the march is the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, according to organizers.
It is scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, but last Friday organizers for the event decided to confine attendance to a small group of pro-life leaders, citing safety precautions. The leaders will leave roses in front of the Supreme Court in mourning for the lives lost to abortion.
Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, cited the safety of participants as a key reason for the change in plans. The march was originally intended to continue albeit with health precautions for attendees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different,” Mancini said.
Through the fall and into the winter, the number of reported cases of COVID-19 soared; the total number of deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 has now surpassed 400,000.
Security in Washington, D.C. has also intensified following the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol by thousands of rioters. Now, large portions of downtown Washington, D.C. are locked to the public in advance of the Jan. 20 Inauguration.
More than 25,000 National Guard troops are currently stationed in D.C., according to NBC News 4 Washington, and the National Mall has been closed to the public.
“The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually,” Mancini said.
Archbishop Naumann praised the decision by the march to move to a virtual format.
“As long-time participants in the annual March for Life, my brother bishops and I commend the march organizers for their concern for the lives and safety of all participants,” he said. “The countless, peaceful, pro-life marchers who would normally gather each year should not be put at risk.”