In a Packed Basilica, Cardinal Speaks of Womb’s ‘Sanctuary’


Cardinal Dolan delivered a compelling pro-life message to a congregation of 12,000 people at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

“Behold the baby in the sanctuary of the womb, once that sanctuary is violated and once society deems it legal to invade it, the integrity of the natural and supernatural are ruptured and we have no place safe and secure left to go,” said Cardinal Dolan in his homily at the Jan. 26 Vigil Mass that was part of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life began with confessions at 10 a.m. Jan. 26 and concluded with Morning Prayer and a Mass the next morning before the 44th annual March for Life.

Cardinal Dolan was serving a second time as celebrant and homilist of the Mass since becoming the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The Mass began with a 20-minute entrance procession featuring five cardinals, 40 bishops, 320 priests, 90 deacons and 545 seminarians.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, welcomed the congregation following the entrance procession.

Cardinal Dolan, in his homily, likened the setting of the Mass to the “sanctuary” provided to an unborn child in the mother’s womb.

“How fitting that we assemble in a sanctuary as we seek protection, grace, mercy and guidance in a holy, safe, secure place that reeks of the divine and envelopes us in God’s presence where we sense the presence of our heavenly mother as we are,” he said.

“We come together this sacred evening in a church we claim as a sanctuary in a land historically termed a sanctuary on a planet the Creator intended as an environment of a sanctuary. Why? To reclaim the belief that a mother’s womb is the primal sanctuary where a helpless, innocent, fragile, tiny baby must be safe, secured, nurtured and protected.”

Cardinal Dolan concluded his homily by saying: “So, this evening, in this sanctuary, we praise you, dear God, for those assurances and encouragement. We have confidence in the sacredness of sanctuary—the sanctuary you intended this earth, this life, your Church, the womb to be, to protect your children and we entrust you of our efforts to uphold the sacredness of the sanctuary of human life itself.”

The Mass began a busy two days for Cardinal Dolan in Washington. The next morning, he celebrated the Mass for Life at St. Patrick’s Church before offering the opening prayer at the march rally and serving that evening as the keynote speaker at the 35th annual Rose Dinner.

Members of the congregation leaving Mass at the national basilica Jan. 26 spoke with CNY about the cardinal’s homily.

“It was beautiful, his whole concept of sanctuary just really hit home very much. I was very moved,’’ said Jennifer Karns of Washington. “This is the perfect starting point for the march. I loved what he said. He didn’t say this is a sanctuary and go hide in it. This is a sanctuary, defend it and do what you can.”

Anna Sutherland, 13, was with a group of 45 children and their adult chaperones from the Diocese of Marquette, Mich. “I thought it was amazing. The whole message really inspired me,” she said.


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