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March for Life radically scaled down for 2021


Jeffrey Bruno

John Burger - published on 01/16/21

Annual Washington, DC, event goes "virtual" in response to COVID spike and continuing tensions

With the world in the midst of a pandemic and a city still recovering from political and social tension, the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., scheduled for January 29, will be a “virtual” event this year.

The decision to shift from an event with potentially thousands of people to an online one came late this week, in the midst of news that the COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse and continuing reports of possible rioting leading up to the presidential inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. next Wednesday.

The March for Life was scheduled for more than a week after the inauguration, but organizers recognized the continuing stress placed on law enforcement personnel.

“The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said in a statement Friday. “In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different. 

“The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually,” Mancini appealed. “We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, D.C., this year. These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected.”

Mancini expressed gratitude for the “countless women, men, and families who sacrifice to come out in such great numbers each year as a witness for life — and we look forward to being together in person next year. As for this year’s march, we look forward to being with you virtually.”

How to watch

Those who wish to watch the Rally and March for Life online are being asked to RSVP at A link will be sent on January 29. 

Already, it was likely that many parishes, schools and local pro-life organizations, concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, would not be putting people in close proximity on long-distances buses this year. There were already plans for a number of events associated with the March for Life to be broadcast for the benefit of those who could not attend in person. 

The decision to go completely “virtual” affects a number of events and activities marking the 48th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions. Traditionally, many marchers have made visits to their Representative or Senators after the march.

March for Life organizers also had already shifted plans for its annual Rose Dinner Gala. It will be held virtually on January 29 at 7 p.m. EST. Tim Tebow, the pro football and baseball player, will be the keynote speaker, and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, will be honored with the 2021 Pro-Life Legacy Award, an award recognizing a lifetime of exceptional work advocating for the inherent dignity of the unborn human person.

Prayer Vigil for Life

An event that is separate from the march but normally extremely well attended is the National Prayer Vigil for Life. Its opening Mass the night before the march would normally see the pews and aisles of Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception packed with worshippers. Organizers made the decision early this month to go “virtual.”

“While thousands of pilgrims typically attend the vigil in person each year, the Basilica will not be open to the public for the 2021 vigil due to local attendance restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on January 5. “In response, this year, for the first time ever, in addition to the televised Mass, bishops in dioceses across the country will be taking turns leading live-streamed holy hours every hour on the hour throughout the all-night vigil.”

The all-night prayer vigil begins on Thursday, January 28, at 8 p.m., with a rosary broadcast from the basilica, followed by Mass. The principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass will be Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, who is chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Bishops’ Conference. 

After the Mass and throughout the night, holy hours led by bishops from various dioceses around the country will be broadcast on the USCCB’s website. The vigil concludes at 8 a.m. on Friday, January 29 with Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. 

“Now, more than ever, our nation is in need of prayer for the protection of the unborn and the dignity of all human life,” said Archbishop Naumann. “I am happy to be joined by bishops in dioceses across the country who are hosting pro-life prayer events, including during the overnight hours of Eucharistic adoration. I invite all Catholics to spend time with Our Lord and join in this nationwide vigil for life.”

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