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MARCH-RIGALI Jan-22-2009 (610 words) With photos. xxxn

Cardinal: Work with officials when 'we can,' 'protest when we must'

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With a new president and a new Congress in Washington, "we intend to work with those in public office whenever we can," said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, but will "raise our voices in respectful but impassioned protest when we must."

The new administration and Congress "will need our encouragement and our prayers," said Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. "But they will also need our voices, united as a constant reminder of the rights of the poor, the sick, the elderly, those with disabilities, the imprisoned, and, yes, especially the most innocent, vulnerable and weakest among us: the child in the womb."

Cardinal Rigali made his remarks in a homily Jan. 21 at Trinity Washington University at the Pro-Life Leadership Mass, which was a first. About 200 were at the Mass, principally "leaders of pro-life, justice and family efforts from all across the country," according to Cardinal Rigali.

The Mass, sponsored by the bishops' Office of Pro-Life Activities, became necessary because of the continuous growth of the vigil Mass held at the nearby Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the night before the annual March for Life.

For years thousands of people have jammed every pew and many aisles at the shrine. The reserved section for pro-life leaders at the front of the shrine was eliminated this year, and two "spillover" Masses were to be celebrated to accommodate the crowds.

Supporters of legal abortion "and their allies in Congress," Cardinal Rigali said, "have been promoting an agenda that would deprive Americans of their freedom to enact almost any restraint on abortion at any stage of pregnancy."

He added, "Congress is working on new appropriations bills that fund all federal programs. Many current safeguards on taxpayer funding, conscience rights and other issues exist only as provisions in these bills. These safeguards could be eliminated with the stroke of a committee chairman's pen, which would pave the way for more wholesale assaults on unborn children."

Cardinal Rigali said parishes would have the opportunity in January and February to participate in a "nationwide effort" to "protect the modest laws that have reduced abortions and prevented government funding and promotion of abortion."

In an interview with Catholic News Service Jan. 19, the cardinal talked about a postcard campaign to Congress being launched Jan. 24 and 25.

The campaign -- expected to continue at least through the first two weekends in February -- is a way for Catholics and others in the pro-life community to let their representatives and senators know they oppose the Freedom of Choice Act and other measures to remove restrictions on abortion.

"We will need the help of all Catholic and pro-life organizations, as well as the participation of other Christian churches and all people of good will, in order to get the message to Congress that human life is sacred and must be protected," he said in his homily.

Noting the inauguration of Barack Obama, an African-American, as president the day before, Cardinal Rigali said, "The rejection of slavery and racism has signified an enormous change for the benefit of our civilization." But he called for a "new change" in the form of "a culture of life."

"This change we need! This change we believe in!" the cardinal added.

He also thanked the "pro-life disciples" for their service. "I believe that the Lord is calling us ... to gather prayerfully in his name, so that we might better understand his will in what may be very challenging times ahead. Thank you for responding to that call."


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