Argentine bishops hold pro-life Mass as president plans to legalize abortion

Pilgrims from Argentina at the general audience in St Peters Square March 16 2016 Credit Daniel Ibanez CNA 3 16 16 Argentine pilgrims at the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, March 16, 2016. | Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

As the Argentine president prepares to send a bill to the legislature legalizing abortion, thousands attended a pro-life Mass March 8 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan.

The Mas Vida Foundation estimated  the attendance at more than 100,000 people.

The Argentine bishops' conference organized the Mass with the theme "Yes to women, yes to life." The main celebrant was Bishop Oscar Vicente Ojea Quintana of San Isidro, who is president of the conference.

The purpose of the event was to oppose the bill to legalize abortion to be sent by President Alberto Fernandez to the Congress, which was announced last week.

Argentine law allows abortion in cases when the mother's life or health is in danger, or in cases of rape.

In his homily, Bishop Ojea said that "in this Eucharist we have come to celebrate and express our gratitude for the lives of so many women united in the sentiment of so many people in the world on this international women's day."

"We value your irreplaceable presence in families and and we celebrate the increasingly greater place you have in our society," the prelate said, and that added that all have come to Luján to "pray for all women so their lives, their safety and their rights are respected, overcoming every kind of exclusion."

"But in a special way, we want to celebrate and appreciate women's closeness and commitment to life," he said, and especially those "intelligent and brave women who commit their lives day after day, that life that sometimes makes it presence known with an unplanned pregnancy, which perhaps doesn't come at the best time, but they are completely committed to care for this new being they have received."

The bishop underscored that "there are millions of Argentine men and women, believers and non-believers" who "have the profound conviction that there is life from conception and that a different person than the mother is developing in her womb." In addition he emphasized that "it is unfair and distressing to call them anti-rights or hypocrites."  

"In reality, we value and defend the rights of each and every life, of every woman and every unborn child," the president of the bishops' conference said.

He stressed that "It's not right to eliminate any human life, as our National Constitution affirms,"
and that "violence and death are the exact opposite of Jesus' plan."

"Life is the first right and without it no others can be given.  We claim it for everyone  at any age or in any situation that life finds itself in, and especially those who are weak, unprotected and defenseless," he said.

At the same time Bishop Ojea said that the members of the Church "wholeheartedly deplore the cruelty of femicide and every kind of violence and discrimination against women" such as " abuse in all its forms whether sexual, psychological or the abuse of power, whatever the environment where it occurs, the family, work, school, the street, and painfully we must also say in the Church."

"Let us renew at this Eucharist our commitment to banish from us a culture that can foster cover up and any kind of complicit silence in face of this crime," the bishop said.

He also called for civility in debating public policy and spoke against silencing or stigmatizing people which can only deepen the divisions in Argentine society.

The bishop asked  the clergy to support "the implementation of sex education that is truly integral" and "policies that recognize the equal dignity of men and women in society."

Bishop Ojea expressed support for public policies to assist pregnant women, especially those in situations where there is conflict or extreme vulnerability and noted "we're already doing it in a lot of our communities."

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A bill to legalize abortion through the first 14 weeks of gestation narrowly passed the Chamber of Deputies in 2018, but was rejected by the Senate.

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