ST. LOUIS, MO - January 21, 2001 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Two days before the 28th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that legalized most abortions, Archbishop Justin Rigali led hundreds of area Catholics Saturday in a rededication of their efforts to outlaw the practice.
"We peacefully exercise our right to profess the truth about life in the public square" and to vote, Rigali said at a morning Mass at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
"We, of necessity, accept the slow and labored processes of change . . . of hearts . . . and laws . . . even while we sense the urgency of our message."
On the day of President George W. Bush's inauguration, Rigali added that "we pray that those elected officials who have been advocates for life will persevere." Bush opposes most abortions but has said he will not use abortion as a litmus test for his judicial appointees.
About 1,500 people came to the cathedral on Lindell Boulevard for the "pro-life Mass." About half that number then walked more than four blocks with Rigali to Planned Parenthood's abortion clinic at Forest Park and Boyle avenues.
With the temperature hovering around 20 degrees and snow flurries in the air, they stood for about 20 minutes on sidewalks nearby, quietly reciting the rosary and the Lord's Prayer.
Watching the Catholic vigil from just outside the building were eight pro-abortion rights clergy members from other religious denominations.
"There are people in the faith community who do believe people should be allowed a choice," said the Rev. Allen Ladage, a United Methodist minister.
"We wanted to make a presence there also" to show support for the clinic's staff members and clients.
Ladage, the pastor at Immanuel and Maplewood United Methodist churches, joined clergy members from Presbyterian, United Church of Christ and Reform Jewish congregations.
Among the Catholic vigil participants was Jack Freebersyser, 44, a letter carrier from Hazelwood.
"I know God gave me the gift of life," he said. "I have to be here to witness for the next generation."
The Mass and procession are among various activities tied to the anniversary of the court decision that activists on both sides of the abortion divide had planned. About 40 busloads from across Missouri will leave Sunday for an anti-abortion march in Washington on Monday.
Abortion-rights advocates here plan several events on Monday, including a luncheon and news conference at Washington University and a dinner at a restaurant in the Central West End.
In his message at the cathedral, Rigali noted that the recent close election "dramatically confirmed the weight of each person's vote."
He said, "When reverence for life at conception and in the womb is devalued, life at every moment is endangered. We have sadly learned over these 28 years that such dangers are real and significant."
Rigali recounted Catholic efforts to reach out to women contemplating abortions to get them to choose other options.
He said the Planned Parenthood clinic "is both a kind of Bethlehem and a Calvary for many children" - referring to the sites of Christ's birth and crucifixion.
"It is a dark stable like Bethlehem where people go, sometimes when there is no life for them," he said. "It is also a hill of Calvary - a place of banishment and execution."
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