Cardinal Justin Rigali was joined by more than 250 Catholic faithful Jan. 10 in front of Planned Parenthood’s East Knoxville clinic for the annual Rosary for Life.
Cardinal Rigali led the prayer service on the sidewalk in front of the clinic at 710 N. Cherry Street, one of two abortion facilities in Knoxville. In the Diocese of Knoxville there also is an abortion facility in Johnson City that opened in 2012. Chattanooga remains the largest U.S. city without an abortion clinic.
The enthusiastic crowd braved temperatures in the 20s as they joined in hymns, recited the Apostles Creed, the Joyful Mysteries, Hail, Holy Queen, the St. Michael Prayer, and said the rosary – all led by Cardinal Rigali and several speakers in English and Spanish.
“Thank you for joining me on a cold and wintery morning. How grateful Bishop Stika and I are for your generosity in gathering together to offer this witness to life. Bishop Stika offers his prayers for all of you and joins with you spiritually,” Cardinal Rigali said.
“We come together as witnesses to the light of Jesus Christ, as witnesses to the Word made flesh. With the light of faith, the Christmas season we have been celebrating brings us with renewed love and awe to kneel before our Savior as a baby lying in a manger. In choosing to share our humanity, to be nurtured in the womb of his mother and to be given birth, Christ established a new relationship with every human being, including the unborn,” Cardinal Rigali added.
He was assisted in the prayer service by Deacon Sean Smith, chancellor of the Diocese of Knoxville, and Paul Simoneau, diocesan vice chancellor and director of the diocese’s Office of Peace and Justice, along with the Knights of Columbus, Father Adam Kane of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, several speakers and a cantor.
Cardinal Rigali led the Rosary for Life just ahead of the anniversary of the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that guaranteed every woman’s right to an abortion. Jan. 22 will mark the 42nd
anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, and since that 1973 ruling estimates place the number of abortions in the United States at more than 56 million, with more than 600,000 of them taking place in Tennessee. Some 25 percent of the Tennessee abortions are from women who live out of state.
In November, Tennessee voters representing communities of faith approved an amendment to the state Constitution that would restore common-sense regulations on the abortion industry. In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion above and beyond what the Roe vs. Wade decision requires. On Nov. 4, Amendment 1 passed with 53 percent of Tennessee residents casting “Yes” votes.
However, opponents of the measure filed a federal lawsuit in November challenging the method election officials used to count votes for the ballot measures. The lawsuit seeks to force election officials to either recount the vote or invalidate it. Since the lawsuit was filed, three federal judges have recused themselves from hearing the case.
As Catholics around the country take part in rosaries and marches for life this month to mark the Roe vs. Wade decision, Cardinal Rigali reminded those attending the Rosary for Life that the feast of the Epiphany that was celebrated Jan. 4 reminds the faithful of the miracle of life embodied in a small baby in a manger and the simultaneous desire by a those in power to destroy the tiny life out of fear.
“Painfully and tragically, Herod’s fear has been enshrined in the law of our country since the fateful Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade 42 years ago. So we gather to offer the light of hope, especially for those who are afraid because of a child in the womb. And I reaffirm with you today to say as a church community that we will stand with, and to the extent possible, help any woman who is pregnant and needs assistance. The same truth that witnesses to the sanctity of human life in the womb witnesses to the sanctity of the human life throughout its span of life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” he said.
Parishes around the diocese will take part in the national March for Life, held annually, that will take place Thursday, Jan. 22, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Locally, a March for Life sponsored by the Knoxville chapter of Tennessee Right To Life will be held Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 p.m. The event will begin at the Tennessee Amphitheater with a prayer service and then the march following through the University of Tennessee campus.
Cardinal Rigali emphasized that the Rosary for Life is a peaceful act to honor the sanctity of life and is devoid of any confrontation or intimidation. He said the Diocese of Knoxville faith community expresses prayers and mercy for those taking part in and supporting the abortion industry.
“So we gather to witness to the Light of Life and to proclaim that God alone is the lord of life. We do so peacefully, with love and mercy, embracing with compassionate understanding the mothers and fathers who have been wounded by their decision to have an abortion. We pray for those who promote the culture of death and its supporters that they might kneel before the Light of Life and discover the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
“Dear friends, dear young people, let us now entrust ourselves, our prayers, and this cause for life to our Blessed Mother Mary – to Our Lady of Guadalupe – so that our witness will be covered by her mantle and thus transformed by the grace of her son. And so we pray to God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – that our peaceful witness will help to open the hearts of many of our brothers and sisters to recognize the sanctity of the unborn. Your commitment to the sacredness of human life renders honor to the Lord of Life and contributes greatly toward building a culture of life and a civilization of love,” he added.