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 CNS Story:

BISHOPS-BLESSING Nov-10-2008 (450 words) With photos. xxxn

Bishops to vote on blessing service for children in the womb

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- To fill a gap in existing prayer books, the U.S. bishops took up consideration Nov. 10 of a liturgical service in English and Spanish for blessing newly conceived children in the womb.

Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, introduced the document on the first day of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

He said the blessing, which had been approved both by his committee and by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, "was prepared to support the parents awaiting the birth of their child, to encourage in the parish prayers for and recognition of the precious gift of the child in the womb, and to foster respect for human life within society."

The blessing can be used in the context of a Mass or outside a Mass, and for an individual mother or a group of expectant parents.

Bishop Serratelli said the pro-life committee had received requests from "a number of dioceses" for such a document.

The blessing includes intercessions "for our civic rulers that they may perform their duties with justice and compassion while respecting the gift of human life" and "for a safe and healthy pregnancy for all expectant mothers and for a safe delivery for their children."

It also expresses concern "for children who are unwanted, unloved, abandoned or abused, that the Lord will inspire his people to protect and care for them."

If used as a blessing outside Mass, the service includes introductory prayers, Scripture readings, intercessions, the actual blessing of the mother and child, and a concluding rite.

"May almighty God, who has created new life, now bless the child in your womb," the blessing says. "The Lord has brought you the joy of motherhood: May he bless you with a safe and healthy pregnancy. You thank the Lord today for the gift of your child: May he bring you and your child one day to share in the unending joys of heaven."

There are also optional prayers for fathers, for families and for the parish community.

If approved, the blessing will be included in future editions of the Book of Blessings when that liturgical text is revised.

But Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Mich., asked that consideration be given to putting the blessing also in the book "Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers" so that it could be used in other than church services.

"It could be useful to those marching outside abortion clinics, to bless the mothers and children inside," he said.

A vote on the document was scheduled for Nov. 11.


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