(Photo: Reuters/Stephen Lam)
Over 50,000 people gathered for the annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, Calif., days after the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, prompting Pope Benedict XVI to applaud the event as an "outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life."
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the pope's representative to the United States, addressed the tens of thousands gathered in front of San Francisco's City Hall on Saturday, delivering a message from the pontiff, according to the organizers.
The pope, the archbishop read, "is grateful to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life and the moral imperative of upholding the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters."
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone told the crowd, "You are a powerful witness that God's truth cannot be silenced. Yes, we are here to stay because life is good and life is holy."
Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., the senior pastor of The New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J. and one of the speakers, vowed before the crowd, saying, "We will not draw back until every child is free."
The event came days after the 40th anniversary of the landmark court case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion, and witnessed a large participation by younger people.
"Fifty-five million American children have been killed by abortion since Roe v. Wade 40 years ago," said Lisa Ebiner Gavit, president of University of Southern California Students for Life. "It is one-third of my generation (4 million annual births in U.S.). Can you imagine how much great potential there was in each of those children that will never be realized?" student-run online publication Neon Tommy quoted her as saying.
Abortion, at its core, is a social justice issue, Gavit added. "It is a life and death issue in the most literal sense. The acceptance and promotion of abortion is fostering the continual devaluation of human life. Our goal is that one day society will come to recognize the dignity and worth of every human being."
Ronnie LaGro, a first-year student, described the march, saying, "When we stopped for 15 minutes to wait for friends, the sea of people just kept coming and coming. It was awesome for those of us from USC to be surrounded by so many loving people willing to take a stand defending our first inalienable right to life."
Pro-life crowd appears to be getting younger in the past few years. "We noticed in the last few years a lot of younger people are coming," Tom Hogan, a board member with the March for Life Education Defense Fund, told The Christian Post on Friday as he attended the annual March for Life event at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
"This has been a testimony to the strength of this movement that not only have the people persevered but the numbers have grown and they've grown younger," added Fr. Frank A. Pavone, national director for Priests for Life and president of the National Pro-life Religious Council. "Despite any kind of bad weather, despite any other obstacles… they come, they come in strength; you see a great spirit of joy and optimism here as well."