BY TRACY-JO SMITH AND CHRISTINA WHITE
THE PRO-LIFE movement has given only a lukewarm welcome to the "Day for Life" celebrations unveiled by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales this week.
The day, to be held on July 6, will be the first in a threeyear cycle. This year the focus will be upon children. Next year will be a day for the blessing of families and 2005 a day for the blessing of the aged.
In conjunction with the Redemptorists, the bishops have produced an eight-page supplement called Stay True to Life. and liturgical materials to enable priests to celebrate a Mass on the day.
Charles Wookey, assistant general secretary to the bishops' conference, said half a million copies had been produced at a cost of £25,000.
Archbishop Peter Smith told reporters: "In Evangelium Vitae, the Pope puts the life issues within the context of the family, and talks about the family as the sanctuary of life.
"What we are trying to do is get Catholics to take a positive view of life, of life as a gift. We are taking the Pope's view that in a discussion of life issues we must begin with life as a celebration.
"We are looking for our people to say: 'How can we possibly celebrate life? How can we promote children and child protection, which as you know, is a big issue, both in the Church and in society at large."
Josephine Quintavalle of the ProLife Alliance said she welcomed the day of celebrations, but was disappointed by the supplement.
She said: "Obviously we're delighted that, at long last, the bishops are setting aside a specific day in the calendar to address pm-life issues, and we hope it will be a day of great prayer and repentance.
"But as far as the magazine goes, I feel that the stalwarts that hold the pro-life movement together in this country will be disappointed. It is such an extraordinary mixture of the profound and absolutely superficial.
"Suggestions that we should have 'children to tea, tidy up the liturgy sheets, think about those we don't like', are just so increasingly trivial when contrasted with the relentless destruction of 600 unborn children through abortion."
Other pro-lifers have also expressed concern that the celebrations sideline abortion. They point to the section in Evangelium Vitae, where the Pope says the Day for Life should devote particular attention "to the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia, with out neglecting other aspects of life which from time to time deserve to be given careful consideration, as occasion and circumstances demand".
Jack Scarisbrick, of the national pro-life charity Life, said: "We're very grateful to the bishops for launching this ambitious Day for Life and hope that it will have a big
impact upon the Catholic community and remind them of the supreme importance of the pro-life cause.
"Stay True to Life speaks of the many dangers facing young people, but the supreme challenge is abortion and all that goes with it. This should be our central concern.
"We hope that the Day for Life, in subsequent years, will be clearly devoted to the prolife cause in the full and strict sense of the word."
Meanwhile, Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood will become the first bishop in England and Wales to pray outside an abortion centre when he leads a silent vigil at a Marie Stopes Centre later this month.
The silent procession on June 14 has been organised by Fr Fidelis Moscinski and the London-based Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
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