An estimated 50,000 pro-life advocates rallied and marched against abortion in San Francisco for the Walk for Life West Coast Jan. 26, drawing greetings and praise from Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., read a special message from the Pope, who called the event an "outstanding public witness to the fundamental right to life."

Pope Benedict said the walk witnessed to 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."

The pontiff also sent his "warm greetings" and assured participants of "his closeness in prayer."

Eva Muntean, Walk for Life West Coast co-chair, told CNA Jan. 28 that it was "amazing" to see so many rally attendees become silent to hear the message from the Pope.

"You could hear a pin drop," she said. "It was so quiet. Everybody was paying attention. That was very special for us."

The crowd filled Civic Center Plaza and rallied in front of San Francisco City Hall before marching two miles through San Francisco's shopping and financial districts to the Ferry Building.

Muntean said the 2013 rally and walk was "by far the largest in the nine years we've done it." The plaza was "jam packed" with people young and old who cheered and held signs that showed where they are from.

She said it was "very, very heartening" to know onlookers in the general population saw the walk as it passed through the city.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco blessed rally participants, telling them "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," he said.

Rally speakers included Rev. Clenard Childress, Jr., founder of

"We are united together as one until the job is done," he told attendees. "Truth is rising up and you are the picture of that truth...We will not draw back until every child is free."

Other speakers included Lacey Buchanan, a mother of a disabled child; Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization by the state of North Carolina; and married couple Kelly and Matthew Clinger who said they regret their abortions.

Muntean said the event tried to engage attendees through an information fair with 40 different tables about area organizations and projects. The tables represented groups like pro-life pregnancy centers and 40 Days for Life.

"Those are the reasons we do the Walk: to keep people engaged and keep people talking about what needs to be done," she said.

She recounted how young people who attended previous walks report that they returned home from the event and started pro-life groups.

"One girl who attended public school decided to write term papers about abortion and the pro-life movement," Muntean said.

She especially thanked those who have promoted the walk in their cities and parishes.

"We really know that there are a lot of people  out there who devote so much time to making sure every organization and parish hear about it. Those are the people we rely on to make our numbers grow and to get the message out."

The Walk for Life West Coast was founded in 2005. Its website is