At this stage you will have read something about the pro-life vigil in Dublin yesterday which drew about 30,000 to the square outside Government Buildings calling on the Taoiseach and Fine Gael to keep their pro-life promises. It was a marvellous day, and once again the huge numbers of young people and young families was extraordinary. As always there is a dispute over the numbers attending in the media. However we were told by the Gardai at the start of the vigil that there were "in excess of 25,000" there: at the end of the vigil, the Gardai revised their figure upwards to 30,000.
A number of events had been organised to prepare for the vigil, among them religious events. Of these the main one was an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in St Andrew's Church on Westland Row. The church was packed - St Andrew's is one of the biggest churches in the Archdiocese - I think someone said there was 1,700 people inside participating in the prayer, including myself. The Archbishop of Dublin was present, and he said a few words at the end of the ceremony. From there the congregation left to join the thousands already congregating in Merrion Square.
As with the last vigil we had some impressive speakers, among them one of Ireland's sporting heroes, Mickey Harte, manager of the Tyrone football team. He spoke passionately about the innocent child in the womb.
The first to speak was David Manley of Family and Life. He spoke of the misuse of language to distract from the real issues involved in abortion and to dehumanise the child in the womb. He reminded us that ro-abortion advocates speak of pregnant women and foetuses rejecting the idea that here we have a mother and unborn child. He drew on the World War II slogan "Careless talk costs lives" and how true that is when it comes to abortion. Many people have been desensitised through the ideological use of technical words and phrases. I find this most interesting in an age when there are campaigns within the medical world to get doctors to use ordinary language when speaking to patients so they will understand what is going on and make informed decisions. With the pro-abortion lobby they want women to make a vital decision based on ambiguity and ignorance.
Another speaker was Bernadette Goulding who works for Women Hurt, an organisation which helps women suffering from the aftermath of abortion. She bravely spoke of her own abortion and how she suffered afterwards. In a moving talk she told us of the pain women feel after they have aborted their children; of the cold, ideological response these women get from the pro-abortion lobby when they seek help, and of the many suicides and suicide attempts. As I was listenting to her I could not help think of the government's decision to make abortion a solution to suicide, listening to Ms Goulding we realised that many women commit suicide after abortion: abortion is not a solution - it is in fact the cause of many suicides.
Despite the huge numbers, the struggle, I think, is only starting. The government is determined to go ahead. Just a few days ago the bishops met with the Taoiseach and discussed abortion among other issues. I do not think it went well, I believe the bishops came up against a brick wall. The government, it seems, have made a political decision on this issue, regardless of what other options are available, and it is going ahead. So this is just the start.
I think every Irish man and woman who believes in the sanctity of life must now seriously consider standing up and being counted and be prepared to take an active role in the campaigns which are to come. The government will hope that, over time, the issue will go away - that most people will forget about about it, or give in to apathy and leave only a "lunatic fringe" to continue to protest. We are all the stewards of life and we all have a responsibility to protect it, not only must we continue the campaign, but it must grow, and grow so much that the government will realise that this issue is not going to go away.
In other news: the Holy Father has appointed Mgr Eamon Martin as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, to succeed Cardinal Brady as soon as he reaches retirement age. Mgr Martin is from the Diocese of Derry, which he administered following the retirement of Bishop Hegarty. He is a young man - 52, so he will probably lead the Archdiocese and serve as Primate of Ireland for the next quarter of a century. He may well have to lead a persecuted Church and in those years Ireland will change considerably. As Primate he will have to preside over the renewal of the Church here and lead the New Evangelisation on this island - and that will be a very difficult task. This appointment to Armagh is a vital one for the future of the Church in Ireland, so he will need our prayers since much will be expected of him. The old mould of Irish bishop must be broken now since we live in very different times: new evangelical and zealous pastors ready to defend the faith must now lead the Church in Ireland. We must pray that Mgr Martin will be such a pastor.