For the pro-life movement to truly succeed, it must fight not only abortion, but also the broader "throwaway culture" wherever life is being discarded, said Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston at a national pro-life Mass.  

"What must characterize the pro-life movement is a special love for the poor, the marginalized, the suffering, and especially human life that is in danger of being discarded," Cardinal O'Malley said in his Jan. 21 homily at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

The cardinal addressed an overflow crowd at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the largest church in North America. More than 11,000 people were estimated to be in attendance.

Cardinal O'Malley, who heads the U.S. bishops' pro-life committee, was chief celebrant at the Mass. Five additional cardinals, 44 bishops, and 343 priests concelebrated the Mass, according to a basilica spokesperson. Some 100 deacons and 530 seminarians also assisted.

Wednesday evening's Mass kicked off an all-night prayer vigil at the basilica, which ends with a closing Mass Thursday morning. The prayer vigil precedes the annual March for Life, which marks the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that led to nationwide legal abortion. The march routinely draws hundreds of thousands from across the country to pray and witness in the heart of Washington, D.C.

Drawing from the Gospel of the day, the story of the Rich Young Man, Cardinal O'Malley cited Pope Francis to explain how one must not only keep the commandments but also love the poor.

In the Gospel story, the young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He "went away sad" when Jesus instructed him to go beyond following the commandments by giving all his possessions to the poor and following Christ.

"The Rich Young Man proudly proclaims that he had observed the commandments from his youth," but he found it "too much" when Jesus commanded him to also give everything he owned to the poor, Cardinal O'Malley noted.

"The rich young man thought it was either/or, but Jesus is telling us it is both/and. We follow the commandments, we are pro-life and we help the poor," the cardinal stressed.

"Part of the Gospel of Life has to be about loving and helping the poor," he said. "Indeed, reducing poverty will also reduce the number of abortions. Poor and low income women account for more than half of the abortions performed each year in our country."

He cited Pope Francis' warning of today's "globalization of indifference" and "throwaway culture" to further explain how the evils of abortion and indifference to the poor are connected, not separate.

"Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have a throw away culture that is now spreading," the cardinal stated, adding that indifference to such evil "is our greatest enemy."

"The pro-life movement in the Catholic Church is about overcoming that indifference," he continued: "indifference to the suffering of a woman in a difficult pregnancy, indifference to the voiceless child who is destined to be part of the statistic of a million killed in the womb each year, indifferent to the poverty and suffering of so many."

The "antidote" to the "throwaway culture," he continued, is found in receiving God's love and giving that love to others.

"The confused young man went away sad because he did not realize how much the Lord loved him. Had he even suspected, I am sure he would have given the money away gladly, but in his insecurity and fear, he leaves. He goes away sad."

"We must learn to look on people with love," Cardinal O'Malley added. "An attitude of judgmental self-righteousness is not going to change people's attitudes and save babies. We need to be the field hospital, not Judge Judy."

Hearkening back to the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s that helped fight the injustice of racism, the cardinal called on pro-lifers to be the "defense attorney for the innocent unborn" and fight the evil of abortion.

"We shall overcome," he said.