January 11, 2006
Dear Pastor or Parish Administrator,
As you know, this January 22 is the thirty-third anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that opened the door to abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy and even during birth. Since 1973, more than forty-six million children have been aborted in our nation. This national tragedy has a tremendous local impact within the Archdiocese of Chicago. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, more than 22,900 abortions took place in Cook and Lake Counties in 2004 alone. Thousands of women and men suffer in silence in the pews of our parishes, while many more have left the Church entirely because of their abortion experience. As the Body of Christ, we are left with the significant task of reaching out with Christ's hope and healing to those suffering from post-abortion aftermath, while peacefully working to prevent the additional killings of thousands of innocents right in our own communities. The prayers and penance of the faithful, as well as your ministry and that of others dedicated to the cause of life, will ultimately transform our culture into one that cherishes and protects every human life, no matter how unformed, broken, guilty or vulnerable that life might be.
Because of this urgent need, my brother Bishops and I agreed in 2001 to make important adaptations to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal regarding the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when the 22ndfalls on a Sunday) shall be observed as aparticular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass "For Peace and Justice" (no. 21 from "Masses for Various Needs'') should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day. . . . On January 22, a "day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life" will be mandatory in the dioceses of the US...
To assist your parish in participating in this national day of penance and prayer, the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat and the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office offer a number of helpful resources. Between January 15 and January 23, parishes throughout the Archdiocese are urged to host pro-life Holy Hours using the enclosed "Holy Hour for Life" provided by the USCCB, or other respect life activities highlighting the thirty-third anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In addition, on Sunday, January 22, I strongly encourage you to focus your homily on post-abortion healing and the sanctity of the life of the unborn from the moment of conception. You may wish to use the enclosed USCCB "Preaching for Life" homily suggestions and/or raise awareness of Project Rachel, in addition to incorporating the enclosed USCCB "Intercessions for Life" into the General Intercessions at Mass. The Respect Life Office will be happy to provide more copies of the enclosed "Project Rachel" brochure for your church pews or bulletin at no cost. You are also encouraged to utilize the enclosed USCCB pamphlet, "Roe Reality Check" as a resource for your homilies and bulletin articles. All of the USCCB' s resources can also be found online at www.usccb.org.
I hope that every parish will provide some form of prayerful activity on or around this significant date. Please work with your Parish Respect Life Coordinator or the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office. With January 22 right around the comer, now is also a good time to identify a volunteer in your parish to serve as your Parish Respect Life Coordinator if you do not already have one. My hope is that every parish in the Archdiocese will have an active Respect Life Coordinator to assist you.
Finally, I invite you to join others by concelebrating the annual Archdiocesan Mass for Life with Bishop-Elect George Rassas. This Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, January 14 at 7:15 PM at St. Mary of the Angels Church, 1850 North Hermitage Avenue, Chicago. Please contact the Respect Life Office at 312..5355 if you plan to concelebrate, if you have identified someone to serve as your Parish Respect Life Coordinator, if you have any questions about the "Holy Hour for Life," or if you need additional materials.
I am deeply grateful for all that you do to encourage and support respect for human life in your parish. You are remembered in my prayers, and I ask you to pray for me and to join me in praying for an end to abortion and an increased respect for the little ones whom Jesus blessed and held in his arms. Thank you
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George, O. M. I.
Archbishop of Chicago