The eighth amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
Despite the high percentage of the population - 78 percent - that identifies as Catholic, polling has predicted that the vote will be close.
Two months ago, EWTN Ireland started a 54-day rosary novena campaign for the “affirmation of the inestimable value of every human life.”
The campaign’s website urges “all people of good will to join together in prayer in defence of unborn babies and their mothers. All those professing faith, and those professing secular values, are invited to join as one voice on behalf of the unborn babies and their mothers: to affirm the life of the most vulnerable who may be classed as terminally ill, disabled or ‘unwanted’.”
A Christian prayer and a secular affirmation were also included on the campaign’s site.
EWTN Ireland as well as many clergy are particularly urging Catholics to pray a nine-day rosary novena leading up to the vote, starting on Thursday, May 17 and ending on Friday, May 25, the day of the referendum.
The novena website Pray More Novenas, which sends out daily reminders for various prayers, has also begun a novena through the intercession of the Irish Our Lady of Knock specifically for the abortion referendum.
There is also a prayer and fasting initiative, inspired by Sr. Briege McKenna (O.S.C.) that calls for Masses and days of prayer and “medically safe” fasting to be offered for the “Reparation, Conversions of hearts and Protection of the 8th amendment.”
Pro-life group Human Life International has asked for the offering of 1,000 Masses for the referendum, and has a form on their website where the Masses offered for this intention may be added to the calendar.
In his video, Fr. O’Reilly recalled Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to the country, during which he urged Irish citizens to defend life.
“He said to the Irish people ‘you must protect life;’ he knew what was coming down the road. And so the Irish people took this very, very seriously and rosary crusades began all around the country,” O’Reilly said.
This also led to the proposal of the constitutional amendment that is currently in place, which gave equal protection to mother and child “so that Ireland would be a country that in the constitution would say that the unborn child has a right to life.”
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“This was an incredible gift from God for our country because it meant that the politicians couldn’t just bring in abortion when they wanted. They would have to put it to the people,” he added. “And so we fought it for years and years and now in 2018 we’re being asked to vote on abortion.”
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Catholic Irish-American men’s fraternity, has asked its members to set aside May 18 as a day of prayer in solidarity with the Save the 8th Campaign.
“Every prayer for a ‘No’ vote is a compassionate plea to spare Ireland the pain America has suffered for 45 years,” Ancient Order of Hibernians National President James F. McKay said, alluding to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that mandated legal abortion across the country.
He encouraged prayers invoking the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima to “save Ireland’s mothers and unborn from the evils of abortion.”
He also encouraged immediate social media outreach as well as discussions with family and friends about “the importance of protecting the unborn.”
Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb. used his May 18 column in the Southern Nebraska Register to ask readers to join him in prayer that the people of Ireland will choose life.