U.S. bishops have asked participants in an ongoing fast to pray for the upcoming March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., noting that Pope Francis urged Argentine Catholics to take part in a similar event.

In a March 22 statement, the bishops recalled how then-Cardinal Jorge Bergogli, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, encouraged support for a July 2010 march in the Argentine capital.

The pontiff had said in a letter to Carmelite nuns in Argentina that at risk in the marriage debate are "the identity and the survival of the family."

"At stake are the lives of children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God," he said, praying that the Holy Family of St. Joseph, St. Mary and the Christ Child defend the family.

The bishops' statement Friday encouraged prayer for all who take part in the March 26 March for Marriage, asking "that they may witness boldly to the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

Their prayer intention is especially directed to those taking part in the Year of Faith "Call to Prayer" for the protection of life, marriage and religious liberty. Participants are encouraged to abstain from meat and to fast on Fridays until Nov. 24, Christ the King Sunday. Over 1,000 people have signed a pledge to fast.

The bishops encouraged those who cannot attend the march to participate spiritually through prayer and fasting on March 26. "Following our Holy Father's example, let us entreat the Holy Family to defend marriage and the family in the United States!"

Plans for the the march in downtown Washington, D.C., are generating excitement and enthusiastic support, according to organizers of the event.

The occasion has been hailed as "an opportunity to witness to the culture about our pro-marriage beliefs," according to Thomas Peters, cultural director for the National Organization for Marriage.

Peters told CNA in a February interview that the nation's citizens coming together visibly to support the institution of marriage is critically important.

The March 26 date coincides with the first day of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry. The lawsuit challenges California's Proposition 8, a state measure recognizing marriage existing solely between a man and a woman.

Hollingsworth v. Perry is one of two cases on same-sex "marriage" that the nation's high court will consider this year. The other challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all federal purposes.

The two cases are both expected to yield landmark decisions that will set the tone for the definition of marriage throughout the nation. Decisions in both cases are expected in late June.