SF rally, march
'here to stay'
SAN FRANCISCO — Tens of thousands of pro-life supporters crammed San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza and walked through the city's center for the ninth annual Walk for Life West Coast Jan. 26.
"The pro-life movement is here to stay, we're here to grow," the walk's co-chair, Eva Muntean, told the rally.
Following the rally, participants walked the two miles from City Hall to the Ferry Building, traveling through the heart of the city's shopping and financial districts, filling Market Street for more than one mile.
More than 50,000 participated, organizers estimated.
"You may imagine how happy I am here to see so many people loving the life that is given to us by our creator to give witness to the life and to the Gospel," said Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the papal nuncio to the United States. "I feel with you, that you are the best of the United States of America."
The archbishop, who flew to San Francisco after addressing a youth rally in Washington Jan. 25, shared a special message from Pope Benedict XVI commending the pro-life participants for "this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life."
He shared a tweet sent by the pope, who said he was "grateful to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life and to the moral imperative of upholding the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and the most defenseless of our brothers and sisters."
"You are a powerful witness that God's truth cannot be silenced," said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, who delivered the invocation to begin the event. "Yes, we are here to stay because life is good and life is holy."
Speakers included Lacey Buchanan, the mother of a disabled child; Elaine Riddick, who was forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina at age 14; Kelly and Matthew Clinger, who regret the two abortions Kelly had; and the Rev. Clenard Childress Jr., who has spoken at nearly every West Coast walk since the event began in 2005.
"Truth is rising up and you are the picture of that truth," said Rev. Childress to loud cheers. "We will not draw back until every child is free."
A Walk for Life Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone drew a standing-room-only crowd that morning. "The Gospel of life will only be proclaimed through lives of holiness," the archbishop said in his homily.
Many groups attended Mass in their home parish before traveling to Civic Center for the 12:30 p.m. rally.
Matthew Lim, 17, from St. Patrick Parish in Rodeo was riding BART on his way to meet up with others from his parish. He was attending for the second year in a row. "I like to go," he said. "My youth group goes."
"I really believe abortion should not be allowed," he said. "You're killing a soul. I was raised to go against abortion."
His traveling companion, Miguel Gavino, 16, agreed. "It's wrong," he said. "We were given a chance to live. They should also be given a chance to live."
Under the banner of St. Joachim Parish in Hayward, members of the pastoral council, choir and other ministries gathered with Glenda Aragón, director of faith formation, to listen to the speakers. Aragón had conducted Spanish-language TV and radio interviews for the Walk for Life West Coast this year.
Aragón was accompanied by her 18-year-old son, Mark Zelaya, who is a second-year student in the School for Pastoral Ministry.
A group of about 20 teens from Phoenix sported yellow T-shirts that said, "yeah baby." David Phillips, 14, of Modesto, wore a black sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan "Abortion is mean." The youth came with a group from St. Joseph Parish "to support the cause of getting rid of abortion," he said.
"We are Catholics and believe Jesus is the life and he comes to give life," said Yorleny Vargas, who attended with her 12-year-old daughter, Mary Alexis, from St. Paul Parish in San Pablo. "He can do everything but we need to work, too," Vargas said.
Brianna Osorio, 15, who was there with two friends from the Antioch area, said: "We believe all life is precious, no matter how small."
Jannie Gutierrez, 15, was among the marches from the Confirmation class at St. Anthony Parish in Oakley. About 40 students, with their teachers, were walking, she said, "to support what we believe."
Behind the banner of Grupo Guadalupano San Juan Bautista San Lorenzo, marchers passed them, praying the Hail Mary in Spanish.
Approximately 20 counterdemonstrators waved signs and shouted as pro-life supporters walked the length of Market Street. A Jumbotron displaying a graphic video of aborted children was set up by an anti-abortion group midway along the walk route, despite efforts by Walk for Life organizers to dissuade the group from playing the video.
A festival and flash dance event supporting keeping abortion legal earlier in the day drew some supporters but dissipated before the pro-life Walk for Life participants reached Justin Herman Plaza.
Catholic Voice Staff Writer Michele Jurich contributed to this report.
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