Annual March for Life Still Stepping Off in D.C.

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The 49th annual national March for Life—with a rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court Friday, Jan. 21—will go on as scheduled this year amid a surge in the omicron variant in the nation’s capital.

Outdoor events are not affected by the District of Columbia’s vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but participants should expect to wear face masks. Indoor events associated with the annual march will have to comply with city Covid-19 restrictions.

Cardinal Dolan will serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the March for Life New York Pilgrim Mass at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 21 at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C. The liturgy is hosted by the Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York.

More than 20 buses are scheduled to depart from the Archdiocese of New York to Washington, D.C., for the march events, Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the Respect Life Office, told CNY this week.

“The importance of supporting the dignity of human life” is something the faithful of the archdiocese take seriously, she said, whether in-person at the march events in Washington, D.C. or locally through prayer and witness, including outside abortion clinics in New York.

“The pro-lifers of New York have been so diligent, so generous, so self-sacrificing in their commitment to prayer and witness on behalf of human life.”

The national Pro-Life Summit, sponsored by Students for Life, is also scheduled to take place Jan. 22 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. The event will feature former Vice President Mike Pence as its keynote speaker. 

The March for Life has canceled its three-day Pro-Life Expo and is combining two planned Capitol Hill 101 panel discussions Jan. 20 into a single event. The organization is still holding its annual Rose Dinner Gala.

March for Life never projects attendance figures, but an informal survey by Catholic News Service of a few groups planning to attend this year’s march indicates that the turnout may approach pre-pandemic levels.

Last year’s march was turned into a virtual event due to the pandemic and the violence at the Capitol Jan. 6. Only an invited group of 80, joined midway by more than 100 others, marched from the nearby Museum of the Bible to just behind the Supreme Court. It was the first outdoor event in Washington, D.C., since the Capitol violence, with both the Capitol and Supreme Court surrounded by high fences.

In previous years, total attendance for the rally and march up Constitution Avenue was estimated to be as high as 100,000.

The march is held annually on a date nearest the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

This year’s theme is “Equality Begins in the Womb.” The rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with a performance by singer Matthew West. The march starts at 1:15 p.m. after the political speeches are completed.

There is considerable anticipation that this year’s march could be the last one with the Roe decision hanging in the balance.

Later this year, the Supreme Court will announce its decision in[ the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal by Mississippi to remove a lower court’s injunction on its law banning most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

If the court rules in favor of the state law, it will effectively overturn Roe v. Wade and send abortion laws back to the states.

“Every year is important, but this year is particularly poignant because of the Supreme Court case with Dobbs,” Sister Virginia Joy said. “Could it be the last anniversary?”

Life is “fundamentally the greatest gift any of us could possibly receive,” she added. “When we begin to recognize and reverence our own life, we begin to see and value every human life as this gift of God, this unique reflection of God.

“When we see people that way, everything changes,” Sister Virginia Joy said.

Cardinal Dolan will serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the annual archdiocesan Pro-Life Mass at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 16, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

On Saturday, Jan. 22, Cardinal Dolan will celebrate the 5:30 p.m. Vigil Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Prayer Vigil for Life will continue with Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at 6:30 p.m., with music by the Sisters of Life.

—CNS 

Catholic New York contributed to this report.

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