The Walk for Life West Coast held each year in San Francisco is an important opportunity for those in the western U.S. to demonstrate their solidarity with the unborn, according to the city's archbishop.

"The main purpose it serves is for those who can't get back to Washington for the March for Life, that we're still able to gather all of us together...and by virtue of our numbers, bear witness to the strength of the pro-life movement," Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone told CNA after celebrating a Mass for the pilgrims who had come for the Jan. 25 event.

"I know there are walks in a lot of different cities, but I think it's important to have one key event on the east coast, and one one the west coast: it's a long ways to the east coast – sometimes people from back east don't realize that."

Many of the some 50,000 participants in Saturday's walk were university students, coming from Berkeley across the bay, Thomas Aquinas College downstate, and even from Wyoming Catholic College, four states away. Alongside Catholics were Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, and agnostics as well.

Archbishop Cordileone noted the importance of the Walk's pro-life witness "especially here in San Francisco, which is always at the forefront of these social changes which are not always in keeping with the greatest respect for human life."

The archbishop's homily at Mass, said on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, had focused on the inter-generational witness of the Walk for Life West Coast, noting both the large number of young people and those who have been defending the unborn for many years.

One of the prayers at the solemn blessing at the Mass' end, that God, "who endowed you with the teaching and example of the Apostles, make you...witnesses to the truth before all."

This role of being "witnesses to the truth" is what makes the coincidence "very providential," Archbishop Cordileone said. "I mentioned in the homily those who have come to the pro-life movement by means of does take courage to proclaim the truth, it has in every age."

"In every generation there has been some reason why it has taken courage to proclaim the truth," he continued, "and certainly that is the case in our own age; the consequences aren't as dire as in past ages, but still it will take courage, and in my homily I was trying to bolster that courage among our young people who really have to be strong in standing up for the truth now."

To bolster their courage, during his homily he had pointed to the "first generation of pro-lifers," who, in the years around the Roe v. Wade decision, couldn't even speak of their views "in polite company."

When asked about this, he explained that he thinks it was "worse" then.

"Now I'm basing this on my own experience, and that of others whom I know, and my recollections of those years, but it was the kind of thing that you couldn't really bring up, and if it did come up, you had to be really careful about letting it be known where you stood on the issue, because remember, that was the heyday of the so-called women's liberation movement."

"So (there was) this idea that you're being anti-woman if you're standing for life. That's what ostracized you."

Archbishop Cordileone expressed hope, however, noting that he believes today's situation to be more conducive to dialogue on the issue.

"Well it's still very emotionally volatile, but less than it used to it's possible to have a calm, rational discussion about it, at least sometimes."

He commented that "it's coming more and more to light that the pro-life movement really is a pro-woman movement; despite the lies that are still being perpetrated, more and more people are coming to realize that."

"And the studies, surveys, show that most Americans are in favor of at least some restrictions on access to abortion, some, you would hope, reasonable things that anyone would want in place, such as informed consent, parental consent, a waiting period to think about it, these kind of things – just very reasonable measures, that I would hope even those who are in favor of keeping it legal would want, for the sake of the woman and helping her to make an informed choice."

Archbishop Cordileone reflected on the many young people who were at the Mass, which he views as a sign of hope for the pro-life cause.

"Young people now realize what's been done to their generation: what is it, one out of three, or four, of them, are not here, because of this, and they're beginning to figure that out, and they don't like it. So I think over time people have begun to see this in a different light, when the realities are becoming clearer and clearer."

"Every year it's a great encouragement to see all the young people. It's a young movement; the young people give us a lot of hope, a lot of encouragement."