VATICAN CITY, June 24, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After the Mass commemorating the pro-life encyclical of Pope John Paul II – the Gospel of Life – Pope Francis greeted various pro-life leaders from around the world. The Pope offered his “sincere thanks” to all “who work directly for the promotion and protection of life.”
Colleen Bayer, founder of Family Life International in New Zealand, who runs crisis pregnancy centers and conferences for life and family was greeted by the Pope accompanied by Jack, one of her grandsons. The Pope was told that in addition to her pro-life activism Colleen and her husband Terry have five children, four of whom were adopted. The family has also fostered 27 children.
“I told His Holiness that 'we love you, we pray for you, we all work very hard for the Gospel of Life in New Zealand and we will continue to do so,'” Bayer told LifeSiteNews.com after meeting the Pope. “He did not speak, but I remember that he nodded, smiled and held my hand. His gaze seemed to look right into my very soul."
As the time approached to meet the Pope, little Jack developed a bad case of stage fright and was seemingly not willing to go through with the meeting. However with some encouragement, he summoned up his courage and met the challenge which was rewarded by a warm embrace by Pope Francis.
Fr. Frank Pavone, founder of Priests for Life and all of its associated ministries is the best known priest in the Catholic Church advocating for the sanctity of life. Fr. Pavone concelebrated the Mass with Pope Francis along with other clergy.
“I was able to greet Pope Francis and expressed to him the greetings of our entire Priests for Life family of ministries,” Fr. Pavone told LifeSiteNews. “’Oh, yes!’ he exclaimed, indicating his awareness of our work, not only thanks to what we do in Rome but also to what we have done over the years in Argentina.”
Janet Morana, the co-founder of Silent No More awareness campaign told LifeSiteNews that Pope Francis seemed particularly taken with her organization and recalled their outreach in Argentina.
“I told the Holy Father that I am Executive Director of Priests for Life, and that I oversee the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which helps women who have had abortions. As soon as I mentioned Silent No More, he said (in Italian), ‘Oh, and also Rachel’s Vineyard!’ and I said, ‘Yes, that too is a big part of my responsibilities at Priests for Life.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and we have these in Buenos Aires.’ ‘Yes,’ I responded, ‘Holy Father, the women speak about their regret of abortion, so that they can help others come back to the Church. This is part of the New Evangelization.’”
She added: “I was holding his hand the whole time, and with his other hand he grabbed my arm and thanked me for all our work.”
John-Henry Westen, the co-founder of LifeSiteNews.com assisted with the celebration of Evangelium Vitae Day by performing the English-language readings at the candlelight vigil and procession. He was introduced to the Pope as one of the founders of LifeSiteNews and the father of eight children. Pope Francis blessed the family and ministry saying, “Good, keep going!”
Mary McClusky is Special Projects Coordinator at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Some of the other pro-life leaders who met with Pope Francis after the Mass:
Michael van der Mast is from the Dutch pro-life group Schreeuw om Leven and the Netherlands contact on the ‘One of Us’ European pro-life initiative
Douglas Sylva, a Senior Fellow at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and an advisor to the Vatican on International relations greeted the Pope along with his wife and five children.
Tom Grenchik, Executive Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.