Sydney, Australia (Monday, March 27, 2017, Gaudium Press) It was standing-room only at St Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday for the Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is also marked as the Day of the Unborn Child. Held on the Sunday closest to the Feast of the Annunciation, the day when the Church celebrates God becoming a single-celled human embryo, it is a day to remember and pray for all unborn children, for an end to abortion, and for Catholics to rededicate themselves as being people of life.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP celebrated the Mass, inviting all gathered to pray for all those who are victims of a broader disrespect for life within the culture.
In his homily, Archbishop Fisher noted the difficulty of preaching about abortion, acknowledging that everyone in the Cathedral would know and love someone who had had an abortion, because one in four Australian women had done so. He commented that many of these had an abortion because they felt that there was no other choice.
“There is much that could be said about that: the causes and effects; the individual tragedies; the failure of our society to offer enough real alternatives,” the Archbishop told the congregation. Picking up the theme of Jesus’ healing of the blind man in the Gospel, Archbishop Fisher said that for the community to open its eyes to the plight of women seeking abortion would also require “a deep moral conversion for our whole community.”
Archbishop Fisher told worshippers that the proclamation of a Gospel of Life was about more than denouncing abortion as wrong, but about “genuinely caring for those who might be forced into it, and having nothing but compassion for those who have been through it.”
He also specifically addressed women who had had abortions. “I join the recent popes in saying how sad we are for what has happened and for any failure of the Christian community to support you when you were most desperate. Your grief is our grief because you are one of us,” he said. Then, repeating the words of St John Paul from Evangelium Vitae, he asked them not to give in to discouragement or lose hope, and reminded them that God was ready to grant forgiveness and healing.
Outside the Cathedral, around 50 protesters gathered to object to the holding of the Day of the Unborn Child. Standing outside the western door of the Cathedral during the last 30 minutes of the Mass, the protesters – including Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi – gave speeches and chanted their objections. Ms Faruqi called for the decriminalisation of abortion and the imposition of ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics in NSW, which would make a prayerful presence around such clinics illegal.
After the speeches, the group then proceeded to Parliament House in anticipation of the route of the procession which would follow the Mass, some of them yelling expletives at worshippers trying to exit.
After the Mass and the praying of the Angelus, thousands of men, women and children, including many young families, teenagers and grandparents took part in the rosary Procession to Parliament House.
Due to the presence of the protesters at the front of Parliament House and their seeming goal to disrupt the prayerful assembly, police suggested that the rosary procession proceed through the Domain and gather behind Parliament House instead. So in song and prayer, the Day of the Unborn Child diverted from city streets and instead was held in the green surrounds of the Domain.
The protesters soon realised that those gathered for the Day of the Unborn Child had relocated, and ran from the front of Parliament House to the new site, but were prevented by Police from getting close enough to cause any further harassment. In a striking contrast to a calm and gentle talk being given by a young woman about the need for compassion and assistance to be given to anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy, particularly when no other support was available, the protesters could be heard yelling expletives through megaphones.
Event organiser, Paul Hanrahan from Family Life International, noted an irony in the approach of the protesters. He said that those who campaign to enforce ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics often argue that the appropriate place for prayer is within a Church, and the appropriate place to protest is at Parliament House, but that the protesters sought to disrupt the faithful from doing both of those things.
Following this, Archbishop Fisher led those gathered in a Litany to Jesus in the Womb of Mary, and then in procession back to St Mary’s Cathedral for a time of Adoration and Benediction.
Source Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney