Ukrainian Orthodox Christians from across the country joined thousands of other Americans in demonstrating their pro-life convictions during the 49th annual March for Life on January 21, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
Joining the Orthodox hierarchs and Christians from across the country, Archbishop Daniel, who was among the marchers and led the representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, said: “Year after year, we march with thousands of other pro-life Americans. And every year I long for the day when we won’t have to do so. I pray for the day when the most vulnerable are protected and women and children, born and unborn, are valued such that marching for life will seem as unnecessary as marching for gravity.”
The March for Life has been held every year since 1974, one year after the Supreme Court legalized abortion throughout the country in the Roe v. Wade decision Jan. 22, 1973.
This year’s event is taking place as the nation awaits the high court’s ruling in a pivotal Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. At issue is the constitutionality of the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks of gestation - a direct challenge of Roe’s prohibition on state laws restricting access to abortion before fetal “viability,” judged to be between 24 to 28 weeks of gestation. If Roe and the related decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey were overturned, the regulation of abortion would return to democratically elected state legislatures.
On the eve of the March for Life, Thursday, January 20, 2022, the delegation of twelve members the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America attended a Mass hosted by the Catholic Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life was led by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore – His Excellency William E. Lori, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
In his remarks the archbishop pointed out that a “loving defense of the most vulnerable, namely the unborn, continually overflows into love and respect for their mothers and families…. the support of pregnant mothers in need is key in helping pro-life ministry bear its full fruit, particularly as laws strengthen to protect the unborn… If legal protection is accompanied by more care for mothers and children, then it will be more and more clear to more and more of our fellow citizens that choosing life does not hinder happiness and does not burden society,” archbishop William Lori said.
More than 20,000 pilgrims from across the nation prayed through the night for an end to abortion and a greater respect for all human life during this year’s National Prayer Vigil for Life.
The following morning, Friday, January 21, 2022, Orthodox hierarchs attended Divine Liturgy at St. Nicholas Cathedral of the Orthodox Church of America.
In his welcoming remarks, Metropolitan Tikhon stated: “By the grace of God, we have assembled this morning to celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the source of all authentic life. We have gathered as hierarchs, clergy, and laity to hear the sacred words of scripture and behold the awe-inspiring liturgical rites. We have come together at our liturgy today as the faithful people of God united in faith in Him. We have also arrived in Washington resolute in the one purpose of proclaiming this same faith in Him, and giving thanks to him for the precious gift of life. And it is exactly this precious gift of life that we march in defense of today. I am grateful to the Almighty God that my beloved brothers, the most-reverend hierarchs from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, stand together in the holy precincts of this cathedral dedicated to Saint Nicholas, who himself is known to the present day as the defender of the oppressed, at the outset of our public testimony, our witness to the sanctity of life and the defense of the unborn. May our efforts this day be received by the world around us, so that hearts and minds be changed and the life of the unborn be guarded, protected, and treasured.
I welcome to my cathedral above all, the Chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese… I also welcome the representatives and heads of the jurisdictions of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Bishops, and all other hierarchs present today…”
The theme of this year’s March for Life, Equality Begins in the Womb, highlights how true equality is only possible if we recognize that children in the womb also deserve protection.
Prior to the beginning of the March for Life, the Orthodox hierarchs joined His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America for the opening prayer for the March. Archbishop stated:
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Today, we come together in solidarity with our Brother Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.
We affirm the gift and sanctity of life – all life, born and unborn. As Christians we confess that every human being is made in their image and likeness of God. Every life is worthy of our prayer and our protection, whether in the womb, or in the world. We are all responsible for the well-being of children. We are their “keepers,” and cannot shirk from our accountability for their welfare.
At the same time, we also affirm our respect for the autonomy of women. It is they who bring forth life into the world. By His incarnation, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ assumed human nature, through His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. She freely chose to bring Him into the world, and God respected her freedom. We can and must make the case for life, both born and unborn, by our own example of unconditional love.
We march not for coercion.
We march with compassion,
And with our arms extended to embrace all.
Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, You have granted us the opportunity to offer these common prayers in unison and have promised that when two or three gather in Your name, You are there also. Fulfill now, O Lord, who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of Your All-Holy Spirit, the petitions of Your servants. Remember, Lord, the people here present and those who are absent with good cause. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Remember, O God, all those whom we are not able to commemorate by forgetfulness or because of their multitude since You know the name and age of each, even from their mother's womb. For You, Lord, are the helper of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, the savior of the afflicted, the haven of the voyager, and the physician of the sick, the protector of the voiceless. Be all things to all, You who know all people, their requests, their households, and their needs. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with love and sanctity. May we come to the light of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Orthodox hierarchs in attendance were, representing Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Archbishop Elpidophoros of America; Metropolitan Methodius of Boston and Bishop Demetrius), Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Archbishop Daniel), Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (Bishop John) Georgian Orthodox Church (Bishop Saba), and Orthodox Church of America (Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Melchisedek, Archbishop Michael, Bishop Andrei).
Gathering with hundreds of Orthodox participants of the March for Life, Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Daniel, Archbishop Michael, Archbishop Melchisedek and Bishop Andrei led a Service of Supplication for an end to Abortion.
Seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (Subdeacon Pavlo Vysotksyi, Readers Andrii Vatrych and Maksym Zhuravchyk, Seminarians Andrii Akulenko and Roman Marchyshak) joined the choir of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary (OCA) in chanting responses to the Supplication Service and signing of sacred hymns throughout the March.
In conclusion of the March, Archbishop Daniel stated: “…hopefully in the future maybe we can have more Ukrainian Orthodox Christians come up here and participate… It is important for us to participate in the March for Life and to help increase awareness among Orthodox Christians about the March for Life and motivate them to participate in it.”