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President Biden's pick for Vatican ambassador: former Sen. Joe Donnelly

Joe Donnelly, official portrait, 2013. / United States Senate Historical Office

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 8, 2021 / 15:04 pm (CNA).

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana is President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, the White House announced on Friday.

Donnelly is a Catholic and a former professor at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his undergraduate degree and his law degree. He served in the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019, leaving office after he lost the 2018 election to Republican challenger Mike Braun. He represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District from 2007 to 2013, during which time he voted against funding embryonic stem cell research and was a strong foe of abortion funding in the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

In the Senate he reversed his position against federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions.

Donnelly is currently a partner at Akin Gump law firm in Washington, D.C. He is chairman of the board at the New York-based Soufan Center, a non-profit think tank whose work on global security and foreign policy focuses on counter-terrorism, violent extremism and armed conflict.

He is an advisor to multiple corporations. The White House noted that his honors include the U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

University of Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. congratulated Donnelly on Friday, calling him “an ideal choice” for the position.

“He will bring to this role a deep understanding of the issues currently facing our nation and the world, a genuine Catholic faith and an understanding of the role the Church can play in our world,” Jenkins said.

While in Congress, Donnelly was known as a pro-labor, pro-life moderate Democrat, who changed his position on marriage in 2013.

He supported some pro-life policies over the years, including restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks and banning taxpayer-funded abortion; he also earned criticism from some pro-life groups for eventually voting against defunding Planned Parenthood in the Senate.

Donnelly was one of dozens of Democrats to oppose abortion funding in the Affordable Care Act while it was being considered in Congress in 2009. He was one of the last House Democratic holdouts who abandoned their opposition and voted for the bill on its final passage in 2010, as President Obama promised the bill would not fund abortion. The U.S. bishops’ conference remained opposed to the law, in large part due to concerns about its funding of abortion coverage.

Pro-life groups were split on Donnelly in his 2018 re-election as senator. Democrats for Life of America supported his re-election, but Susan B. Anthony List opposed his candidacy, saying he “claims to be pro-life, but he has a history of betrayal on important pro-life votes.” His vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court surfaced as an issue in his re-election, along with the issue of abortion which his opponent Mike Braun repeatedly raised in a 2018 debate.

Donnelly in 2013 announced his support for redefining marriage, saying it was “the right thing to do,” as Politico reported.

This article was updated on Oct. 8 with additional information.

Archbishop Naumann: Biden administration ‘wrong’ to fund abortion providers

Archbishop Joseph Naumann / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 8, 2021 / 10:01 am (CNA).

The U.S. bishops’ pro-life chairman said on Thursday that the Biden administration is “wrong” for reopening federal funding of abortion providers in the Title X program.

This week, the administration published a final rule stating clinics receiving Title X family planning funding could refer for abortions, and did not have to be physically and financially separate from abortion facilities. The rule reversed regulations put in place by the Trump administration to separate Title X funding from abortion providers.

“The Administration is wrong to allow taxpayer dollars to fund abortion providers who participate in a pre-pregnancy program specifically designed to exclude abortion,” stated Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, on Thursday, Oct. 7.

Title X is a federal program created in 1970 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. The original statute that created the program specified that no funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” 

“Title X was intended and authorized to be a program entirely separate from abortion,” Archbishop Naumann said. 

“Abortion is not family planning,” he said. “Abortion takes the life of an already-conceived and growing child. The violence of abortion wounds countless women physically, spiritually, and emotionally.”

Naumann added that bishops have grave concerns about government promotion of contraceptives, and have long supported efforts to ensure that abortion is kept physically and financially separate from family planning under Title X.

Under the Clinton administration’s update to the program in 2000, grant recipients had to provide abortion counseling and abortion referrals to clients upon request.

Then in 2018, the Trump administration first proposed requiring a strict physical and financial line of separation between Title X recipients and any program or facility that performs abortion, or refers for abortion. This requirement, now known as the Protect Life Rule, was implemented in March 2019. 

The Protect Life Rule barred Title X recipients from referring for or performing abortions, and required recipients to be both physically and financially separate from facilities that perform abortions. Planned Parenthood in August 2019 announced it would stop participating in the program rather than comply with the new regulations.

Now, the Biden administration has officially rescinded the Protect Life Rule, after President Biden – in one of his first actions in office – announced his intent to do so.

In January, Naumann responded to Biden’s announcement and said that “by rescinding this rule, the Administration will be forcing abortion into a pre-pregnancy program specifically designed to exclude abortion; a move which is immoral, impractical, and may also be unlawful.”

An Oct. 4 press release from the Department of Health and Human Services said that the new rule will “impact actions announced earlier including grants to support telehealth and address the dire need for family planning services following recent events in Texas and across the country to limit access to essential reproductive healthcare.” In September, HHS had announced it would award up to $10 million for emergency contraceptives and family planning to clinics in Texas and around the country, in the wake of the state’s new restrictions on abortion.

Longtime Texas pastor asked to return home to Spain, after celebrating 100th birthday

Fr. Luis Urriza, O.S.A., at a celebration of his gaining American citizenship in August 2019. / Courtesy of the Diocese of Beaumont.

Beaumont, Texas, Oct 7, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

A centenarian priest in Texas has been recalled to his religious community in Spain, to the dismay of his longtime parishioners. 

“It kind of hurts our feelings,” said parishioner Jacqueline Hernandez, in an interview with 12NewsNow of Southeast Texas. “It really does because he is a figure in so many people's lives that he is family to us. He spends more time with us than he has with his own family."

Father Luis Urriza has served in the United States since 1949, with the majority of his time spent in the Diocese of Beaumont. But he is a member of the Augustinian order, with his province based in Spain. He was essentially on loan to the Diocese of Beaumont. 

His superior has asked Fr. Urriza to return to Spain for retirement, because of his advanced age. Fr. Urriza celebrated his 100th birthday Aug. 19. 

“I'm sorry I have to leave. Really, I don't like it, but I have to accept it,” Fr. Urriza said, in comments to 12NewsNow.

Fr. Urriza was born in Navarre in 1921. He made his solemn vows in the Augustian Order in 1941, and was ordained a priest in 1944. He was a teacher for three years in northern Spain, before serving two years as a chaplain for the Spanish Army. 

His superior sent him to the United States in 1949. He arrived in the Diocese of Beaumont shortly after, to serve a growing Hispanic Catholic population there. He reportedly built his current parish in Beaumont, Christ the King, from the ground up.

He spent a little more than a decade in other parts of Texas, including two years in the “Movement for a Better World,” before returning to Christ the King in 1977, as pastor. He had been pastor at Christ the King ever since.  

Christ the King parish has about 635 registered families. 

Benedict XVI awarded Fr. Urriza the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross in 2009, in honor of his service to the Church. 

Fr. Urriza is reportedly required to leave his parish in Texas by Oct. 16. Parishioners say they are planning a march to protest the move. 

At a 2019 celebration of Fr. Urriza’s 75th year of priesthood, the then-Bishop of Beaumont, Curtis Guillory, thanked him for “his many years of ministry in southeast Texas” and commented that Fr. Urriza “has inspired and motivated many throughout his ministry.”

US bishops to elect several new committee heads at November meeting

The 2019 USCCB fall general assembly / Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 16:04 pm (CNA).

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced the slate of candidates for five committee chair positions to be filled this fall, as well as candidates for the position of treasurer-elect. 

The bishops will elect new committee chairs at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, which will be held from Nov. 15-18. The meeting marks the first in-person meeting of the conference in two years.

The winner of each election will serve as “chairman-elect” or “treasurer-elect” for one year. Following that year, at the bishops’ fall 2022 meeting, the chairmen-elect and treasurer-elect will become the chairmen of their respective committees and treasurer of the USCCB, respectively. Each term lasts for three years. 

Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen and Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle will be considered for the position of USCCB treasurer-elect, leading the conference’s budget and finance committee. 

For the position of migration committee chairman-elect, Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami will be considered. 

Bishop Steven Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis are the candidates for chairman-elect of the Committee on Divine Worship. 

In March 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rozanski, then Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts, attempted to authorize a change to norms for the anointing of the sick, permitting a nurse, rather than a priest, to conduct the physical anointing. Only a priest can validly administer the sacrament.

For the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, the bishops will choose between Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas. 

Both Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing are candidates for chairman-elect for the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. 

Archeparch Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois will be considered for the position of chairman-elect for the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. 

At the November meeting, the current chairmen-elect will assume control of their committees. 

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville will become the new chairman of the Committee on Doctrine; Bishop James Wall of Gallup will head the National Collections Committee; and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore will become the new leader of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. 

The bishops will also be voting to approve the final draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist, an item that received considerable attention and debate during their spring meeting.

California rolls back assisted suicide safeguards

null / Video_Creative / Shutterstock.

Sacramento, Calif., Oct 7, 2021 / 15:10 pm (CNA).

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed Senate Bill 380, a law that loosens several safeguarding requirements surrounding assisted suicide. The California Catholic Conference had been strongly urging opposition to the legal change.

“SB 380 does not offer genuine protection to patients and their families, nor does it ensure quality, equitable care for all,” the Catholic Conference wrote. 

“We must protect vulnerable persons in times of weakness – the poor, elderly, people with disabilities, and others in vulnerable groups – from indifference, prejudice, abuse, exploitation, devaluation, and psychological and financial pressure to end their lives.”

Assisted suicide was legalized in California in 2015 by the End of Life Option Act, implemented under then-governor Jerry Brown. That act originally included a sunset clause and a legislative evaluation in 2026. 

Existing California law required patients to make two separate requests, a minimum of 15 days apart, for assisted suicide medication. The law signed Oct. 5 shortens the required waiting period between the requests to 48 hours. 

The new law also eliminates a requirement that the patient requesting assisted suicide make a “final attestation.” 

The new law requires a healthcare provider who is unable or unwilling to participate in assisted suicide to inform the patient that they do not participate, document the date of the individual’s request and the provider’s notice of their objection, and transfer their relevant medical record upon request. Previously, healthcare providers who objected to assisted suicide were not required to refer patients to a provider who did not object. 

"Stripping safeguards from the original assisted suicide law proves what opponents of assisted suicide laws have always claimed: That limitations on assisted suicide wouldn’t last for long once it was legalized," Matt Vallière, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund, an anti-assisted suicide organization, said Oct. 6.

"What California did yesterday lacked compassion and understanding. The effects of this law will be felt for years to come as people throughout the disability and aging community struggle to access quality healthcare."

The conference noted that California’s assisted suicide law passed in the first place in part because of the safeguards and because of the sunset clause; the newly passed law extends the sunset clause to 2031. 

There is “no data or science” to support the removal of such safeguards, the Orange County Register has noted. The Catholic conference has criticized the lack of data collected and a lack of transparency in the law’s implementation. Annual reports on the End of Life Option Act do not include any information on the reasons for patients requesting the lethal drugs. 

The Catholic Medical Association, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, have repeatedly expressed support for palliative care as opposed to assisted suicide. 

Palliative care involves medical care and pain management for the symptoms of those suffering from a serious illness, and refraining from taking actions that directly take the life of the patient, as opposed to the practices of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

In addition to California, assisted suicide is legal by law in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; and in Montana through a state supreme court ruling. 

In 2018, Superior Judge Daniel Ottolia of Riverside County declared California’s assisted suicide law unconstitutional, ruling that the legislation was “adopted illegally” since it was passed during a legislative session limited to issues other than assisted suicide. 

Then-California Attorney General Xavier Becerra— now U.S. secretary of health and human services— appealed Ottolia’s ruling in May 2018, and fought to reinstate the assisted suicide law.

The law was upheld by a January 2020 ruling of the Riverside County Superior Court, which determined that it was lawfully passed and did not violate the state constitution.

National rosary rally to take place in nation’s capital

Seminarians from the North American College in Rome, Italy pray the rosary in St. Peter's Square for Pope Francis on March 13, 2016. / Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 13:02 pm (CNA).

A “National Rosary Rally” in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10 will cap a 54 day rosary novena for the “protection and provision for the USA and the world,” prayed by Catholics around the country. 

“We now need to implore graces from Almighty God, to lead the Pope and the Bishops to follow sound doctrine and tradition, and firmly reject modernist interpretations of the priesthood, religion, and inculturation,” the website for Rosary Coast to Coast 2021, which is organizing the event, states.

The rosary novena began on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and ended on Oct. 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. 

The national rosary rally will be held in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 10, and local rallies are encouraged at state capitols and other public places around the country. “We are asking everyone to join us in Union Square in front of the U.S. Capitol for a very special Rosary Rally on October 10,” the website says. “We want to call out to God in a very special way at the conclusion of our 54 Day Rosary Novena.”

Participants are asked to assemble at St. Peter’s parish on Capitol Hill at 1:30 p.m, followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 1:55 p.m. and a procession at 2 p.m. to the rally site at Union Square. A rosary will be prayed during the Eucharistic procession.

During the rally, participants will be accompanied by the Immaculate Heart of Mary statue from the World Apostolate of Fatima USA.

For those who are unable to attend the national rally, they are encouraged to attend local rallies or pray outside a nearby abortion clinic or at their parish church. Recitations of the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary will commence on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

The rally will feature speakers including Bishop Joseph Coffey, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of the Military Services; Fr. Chris Alar, MIC; Sister Deirdre Byrne, superior of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts; and Doug Barry, founder of the Catholic apostolate Radix-Battle Ready.

The initiative has received endorsements from Raymond Cardinal Burke, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and Fr. Donald Calloway MIC, author of Consecration to St. Joseph.

Missouri bishops condemn execution of Ernest Johnson

Mitchell Rozanski, then-Bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts and current Archbishop of St. Louis, in St. Peter's Basilica, Nov. 7, 2019. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 11:10 am (CNA).

The four bishops of Missouri released a joint statement on Wednesday evening condemning the state’s execution of Ernest Lee Johnson, on whose behalf the Holy See pleaded for clemency.

Johnson, 61, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court denied his emergency appeal for a stay of execution. He was convicted of killing three convenience store employees with a claw hammer in 1994 while attempting to rob the store for drug money..

“As the Catholic bishops of Missouri, we express our disappointment with the decision to allow the execution of Ernest Lee Johnson to move forward yesterday,” said the statement, which was signed by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, Bishop James Johnson of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, and Bishop Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. 

The bishops said that while Johnson’s crimes were “heinous and deserve to be punished,” the “pro-life state” of Missouri should cease the use of capital punishment. 

The bishops expressed their “sincerest condolences” to the families of Johnson’s victims. 

“The lives of Mary Bratcher, Mabel Scruggs and Fred Jones deserve honor and remembrance,” they said. “We pray for the comfort of their loved ones as they are forced to relive the trauma and pain of these crimes through this execution.” 

The death penalty, said the bishops, “does not make Missouri a safer or more civil state.” 

“As we communicated in our clemency request last month, the death penalty degrades us as a society and teaches our children that violence is the proper response to violence,” they said. “When someone is executed, the opportunity for them to undergo a conversion and repent prior to their final judgement may be lost. That important time for grace to work in a person’s heart is taken away.” 

Alternative punishments, such as life in prison without the possibility of parole, would serve as a suitable way to “address these crimes without resorting to the death penalty,” they said. 

“We ask Catholics and people of good will to join us in seeking alternatives to the death penalty for Missouri’s most violent criminals,” the bishops said. “Even those who commit the most offensive acts do not lose their human dignity before God.”

Johnson’s execution was controversial due to questions surrounding his intelligence. His lawyer, Jeremy Weis, claimed that Johnson was intellectually disabled and had an IQ below 70. 

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Johnson had not proven that he was intellectually disabled, noting that he had extensively planned the crimes and taken steps to destroy incriminating evidence. 

Johnson was initially scheduled to be executed in 2001, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute those with intellectual disabilities. He was re-sentenced to death in 2003 before that sentence was tossed out by the state Supreme Court. He was re-sentenced to death again in 2006.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, on Monday issued a message to Missouri Gov. Michael Parson asking for "some appropriate form of clemency" for Johnson.

Pro-life leaders slam decision to halt Texas’ ‘heartbeat’ law

null / Helen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pro-life leaders on Wednesday responded to a federal judge blocking Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law, just more than one month after the law went into effect.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Oct. 6, Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas halted enforcement of the law by the state . The Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) restricts most abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, and is enforced through private civil lawsuits against those performing illegal abortions, as well as against those deemed culpable under the law of assisting in illegal abortions. Successful lawsuits can net at least $10,000 in damages.

The Biden administration had filed a complaint requesting a temporary restraining order on the state or anyone filing a lawsuit under the law.

Although Pitman would not order an injunction on future private lawsuits, his order halted any private actions under the law "to the extent" that they "would necessitate state action that is now prohibited." The state is barred from actions such as awarding damages to successful lawsuits or enforcing judgments in such cases.

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” Judge Pitman wrote in his decision.

In response, pro-life groups criticized the ruling.

"Judge Pittman's stonewalling of the Texas Heartbeat Act is a shameless example of unfettered judicial activism at its worst,” said Chelsey Youman, Texas state director of the group Human Coalition Action. “His historic injunction has no regard for the rule of law, and is more about partisan politics than a fair judgment of the law.”

“The people of Texas speaking through their state legislators acted to protect unborn children with beating hearts, who are as human as you and me,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The Heartbeat Act is estimated to have saved more than 4,700 babies since it took effect over a month ago. Now an unelected judge has interfered with the clearly expressed will of Texans,” she wrote.

It is unclear how many lawsuits were filed under the Texas law.

The Biden administration applauded Wednesday’s ruling. Attorney General Merrick Garland hailed it as “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in a statement late Wednesday evening, called it “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas.”

“The fight has only just begun,” she added, noting that Biden “supports codifying Roe v. Wade” and “has directed a whole-of-government response to S.B. 8.”

In his ruling on Wednesday, Judge Pitman wrote that Texas “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” that “circumvented the traditional process” of judicial review by allowing private citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits.

In his opinion and footnotes, Pitman made repeated references to “pregnant persons” and “pregnant people.”

“The Court finds that abortion is a safe and common medical procedure, based on the credible declarations of abortion providers founded on their education and experience,” he stated.

He also cited testimony from abortion providers that the law had resulted in a decrease in the number of abortions since it went into effect Sept. 1.

According to the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice facilities in Houston and Stafford, the facilities performed 52 of 63 scheduled abortions between Sept. 1 and Sept. 10, when they normally would have conducted 25 abortions per day. According to the facilities, “some patients had embryonic activity by the time they returned” for an abortion after their ultrasound appointment. Another provider overseeing four clinics testified that they had turned away more than 100 women between Sept. 1 and Sept. 14, Pitman wrote.

Texas has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Youman stated that “abortion providers should remain on notice that SB 8 specifically allows them to be held liable for every preborn child who’s heartbeat they end for up to six years.”

This article was updated on Oct. 7.

Our Lady of Victory and why October is the month of the Rosary

The niece of Lucia Santos, Maria Dos Anjos Rua, praying the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Fatima, Portugal on April 6, 2017. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 03:01 am (CNA).

October is designated by the Catholic Church as the "Month of the Rosary" because in this month the Church celebrates the Marian advocation of "Our Lady of the Rosary" on Oct. 7.   

The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, also celebrated as Our Lady of Victory or Victories, was established by Pope St. Pius V in 1571 to celebrate the miraculous victory of the Christian forces in the Battle of Lepanto on Oct. 7 of that year. Previous to the decisive battle, St. Pius V had requested all Western Christians to pray the rosary; thus he attributed the victory to the power of the Marian prayer rather than the power of ships and cannons.

Two years before establishing the feast, in 1569, Pope St. Pius V officially approved the rosary in its present form with the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices ("The Roman Pontiffs are accustomed," the first words of the document). In a development from earlier methods of praying the rosary, the new version included the second half of the Hail Mary, as well as the “Glory Be” prayer at the end of each mystery.

In Consueverunt Romani Pontifices, St. Pius V established the two essential elements of the rosary: vocal prayer and mental prayer. This fact has been highlighted by all Marian saints, especially Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673 – 1716), author of popular Marian books such as "The Admirable secret of the Rosary," "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," and "Methods for Saying the Rosary."

The dedication of the month of October to the Holy Rosary became common in the Church thanks to Pope Leo XIII, an enthusiastic promoter of the rosary. In the span of only five years, Pope Leo wrote eleven encyclicals on the rosary.

St. John Paul II called the rosary his favorite prayer, "in which we meditate with Mary upon the mysteries which she as a Mother meditated on in her heart (Lk. 2:19.)."

Denver pro-life Eucharistic procession circles state's largest abortion clinic

Marchers walk along with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe during a pro-life Eucharistic Procession Oct. 2, 2021 in Denver. / CNA

Denver, Colo., Oct 6, 2021 / 20:31 pm (CNA).

Over 400 Catholics in Denver joined a pro-life Eucharistic procession around the state’s largest abortion clinic on Saturday, Oct. 2.

The event, put on by the Archdiocese of Denver, sought to highlight the 40 Days for Life movement and the efficacy of spiritual remedies for the wounds caused by abortion. 

“The testimony I picked up from Hispanic participants was how peaceful and loving is the strength that Jesus brings to us when we process in a place of death,” said Maria Elisa Olivas, community coordinator for the archdiocese's Respect Life Office.

Catholics from parishes all around the archdiocese participated in the event, as did seminarians from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, priests, and the Sisters of Life.

“As a participant I was able to experience a gentle peace as we processed in shared prayer and adoration,” remarked Susie Cheshire, a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul. “It was so nice to be surrounded by all ages — from newborn babies, pregnant mothers, elderly, and all ages in between — as we gathered in prayer, lifting our voices for the voiceless.”

The Planned Parenthood clinic in Stapleton is the largest in the state and one of the largest in the country, along with clinics in the Bronx, New York and in Houston, Texas.

A pro-life clinic, Marisol Health, is located on the same block opposite the abortion compound. Marisol Health operates licensed medical centers fully equipped to help women make decisions about their reproductive health, including giving birth to an unexpected baby. Marisol operates under an agreement with the Archdiocese of Denver.

Hundreds of people processed with the Eucharist around a Denver abortion clinic during a 40 Days for Life event on Oct. 3, 2021. CNA
Hundreds of people processed with the Eucharist around a Denver abortion clinic during a 40 Days for Life event on Oct. 3, 2021. CNA

The procession began in the garden of the pro-life clinic and circled the abortion facility three times before benediction was offered back in the garden.

A giant, framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, carried by two men, also made an appearance in the procession.

Father Nick Larkin, Father Doug Grandon, and Msgr. Bernie Schmitz took turns processing the Eucharist.

Lynn Grandon, director of the Respect Life Office at Catholic Charities in in Archdiocese of Denver told CNA that after Holy Mass was celebrated at the Respect Life Office, participants were reminded that a 40 Days for Life campaign in Texas urged people to pray for staff members of a Planned Parenthood clinic, one of whom was Abby Johnson, who would become a powerful witness to the pro-life cause.

Gianna Smith, a sophomore at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Classical School in Denver, told CNA that “it is important for young people to pray at Planned Parenthood.”

“Saturday was amazing because there were so many people, so you have the power of group prayer, and on top of that, the Eucharist circling the building,” she said.

“My mom taught me at a very young age how terrible abortion is, so I want to be a part of the movement of it being illegal and unthinkable,” Gianna explained. “I know God especially listens to young people praying, and with such an important issue as abortion is, I don’t even mind giving up a Saturday.”