Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates descended upon the nation's capital for the 50th March for Life - the first national march since the overturn of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that initially prompted the annual demonstration.
Ukrainian Orthodox Christians from across the country joined thousands of other Americans in demonstrating their pro-life convictions during the 50th annual March for Life on January 19-20, 2023 in Washington, D.C.
Joined by the Orthodox and Catholic hierarchs and Christians from across the country, Archbishop Daniel, led the delegation of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, and formally represented the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA at this year’s March for Life.
The 2023 event was the first national March for Life since the high court’s June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe and returned the matter of regulating or restricting abortion to state legislatures.
In his conversation with the bishops of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and echoing the words of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, VA, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel reflected: “This is a moment for joy and for gratitude; a moment to recall the countless souls who have dedicated themselves to political and social action, to prayer, and to service in the name of this cause… But even as we celebrate, we must remember: this is the beginning, not the end. A new important phase of work in the pro-life movement begins now.”
The national March for Life first took place in Washington in 1974 in response to the Roe decision legalizing abortion nationwide the previous year. The protest has taken place in Washington each year since, with a smaller-in-scale event during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.
At the pre-march rally, the Christian band "We Are Messengers" performed, followed by a number of speakers, including Jonathan Roumie, known for his role as “Jesus” in the television series "The Chosen," former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, Democratic Connecticut State Rep. Trenee McGee, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a Catholic Republican and co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said at the rally, "Future generations will someday look back on us and wonder how and why a society that bragged about its commitment to human rights could have legally sanctioned" abortion.
"The injustice of abortion need not be forever, and with your continued work and prayers, it will not be,” Smith said.
The March for Life Rally began promptly at NOON with a prayer led by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge Arlington, VA, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, who introduced Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the delegation of Orthodox Hierarchs representing the entire Orthodox Church of the United States of America.
The Orthodox hierarchs in attendance were, representing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA (Archbishop Daniel); Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (Bishop Demetrios), Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (Bishop John and Bishop Alexander) and Orthodox Church of America (Metropolitan Tikhon, Archbishop Nathaniel, Archbishop Michael, Bishop Andrei).
Vladyka Daniel, speaking with the seminarians from St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (who together with Very Rev. Fr. Volodymyr Steliac of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Silver Spring, MD accompanied him) and Roman-Catholic Theological Schools, reflected, echoing the sentiments of the March for Life Movement: “Our efforts to defend life must be as tireless as ever not only to change laws but also hearts with steadfast faith in the grace and power of God to do so. Even with Roe v. Wade being overturned, which allows more freedom at the state level to enact pro-life laws, the necessary work to build a culture of life in the United States of America is not finished. Rather, it is focused differently. Sadly, the number of abortions annually is still well over 900,000 each year, and that number is expected to decrease only by roughly 200,000 each year in a post-Roe America…
Many national legislative battles loom, including even keeping longstanding Hyde protections, which limit government funding for abortion on annual appropriation bills. The Hyde Amendment has saved over 2 million lives and is arguably the most impactful pro-life policy in our nation’s history, but now cannot be taken for granted.
However, our most important work is changing hearts and minds. The goal of the national March for Life is to not only change laws at the state and federal level, but to change the culture to ultimately make abortion unthinkable.”
Archbishop Daniel also led the delegation of the Orthodox Hierarchs at the opening Mass for the annual National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine on January 19, 2023.
The annual Mass at the Basilica was attended by 6,500 people from all over the country, from infants to the elderly. Pews were packed end to end, and chairs and TV screens were set up in each of the basilica’s side chapels. By the time Mass began, the aisles were filled with people standing. Dozens also viewed the Mass via screens in the lower level of the basilica.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, cited two necessary focuses moving forward: Changing laws and changing hearts.
Part of changing hearts, he said, is communicating pro-life views “with love” and engaging in “respectful discussion” with those who disagree — “efforts to persuade rather than attack.” Bishop Burbidge emphasized, however, that doesn’t negate the importance of holding people, especially public officials, accountable.
“Those in public office who endorse policies that protect or grow the evil of abortion must know that they are accountable, yes, to the public they serve, but most importantly to Almighty God, the source of all life,” Bishop Burbidge said. “The child in the womb is first and foremost His child.”
He also noted that to change hearts, the pro-life movement must find “new and compelling” ways to communicate its stance. That includes teaching the gospel, engaging with experts who understand the federal and state landscape to coordinate efforts and strategies, and relying on resources like philosophy, the social sciences, technology, and psychology.
On changing laws, Bishop Burbidge highlighted at the national level advocating for an end to policies like those that promote abortion funding and facilitate alternative means of abortion at home. In the absence of Roe, there also needs to be a focus on advocating for anti-abortion policies at the local level, he said.
Traveling back to NJ - the Spiritual Center - Metropoilia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, Vladyka Daniel spoke with the seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (Subdeacons Andrii Vatrych, Maksym Zhuravchyk, Andrii Akulenko, Roman Marchyshak and Yurii Izhyk) urging them "to be witnesses to life, witnesses to the truth that every life matters… Pray and be confident that God can and will do great things.
"Witness by the way you love your family, and especially the smallest, most helpless around you. Witness by your words in defense of the unborn, witness to God's mercy, inviting everyone back to the joy of Confession…
The law has changed … (but) hearts need to change toward advancing a culture of life in this nation… Some of the biggest battles are in front of us.
Celebrating "the gift of life and the beauty of the human person" is essential to that task!”
Photos by Subdeacons Andrii Vatrych and Maksym Zhuravchyk