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Recent Developments:  A Day for the Unborn

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of the development of the “Day of the Unborn Child” is that the impetus for it seemed to self-generate naturally in the various pro-life communities of many nations, with no international organization or communication.  As stated in the March 2004 WNY Catholic, “a growing number of people, independently of each other, have experienced insight concerning the significance of March 25 in promoting a ‘Culture of Life.’” 

 

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, said that when he worked at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, he often heard pro-life leaders from around the world stress the importance of the Incarnation as a pro-life symbol and the need to give the feast of March 25th more emphasis in church celebrations (see his more recent video comments below).  Dr. John Willke, well known as the former president of the premier U.S. pro-life organization National Right to Life Committee, shares this view.  Willke wrote and distributes a brochure titled “Mary’s Pregnancy” that sheds light on the significance of Christ’s conception.

 

In 1998, Argentina became the first nation to officially recognize the feast as a secular memorial for the unborn--President Carlos Menem declared March 25 as the Day of the Unborn.  The Vatican.va page promoting the Annunciation feast as "The Day of the Unborn Child" notes that the Argentine "initiative came from the President of the Republic who wanted to fulfill a promise he made personally to the Pope in the Church of the Argentine community in Rome."  The official proclamation was made on March 25, 1999 in Buenos Aires in the presence of many dignitaries including the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, and representatives from the Orthodox, Anglican, Evangelical, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.  The establishment of the day as a pro-life memorial elicited a particularly noteworthy response from Pope John Paul II who wrote to Menem expressing the hope that "the celebration of the 'Day of the Unborn' will foster a positive choice in favor of life and the development of a culture oriented in this direction, which will ensure the promotion of human dignity in all situations."  (See the Zenit 3/25/03 article: "Day of the Unborn" Taking on a Life of Its Own--Coincides with Feast of the Annunciation).  Pope John Paul II highlighted the importance of the Annunciation feast throughout his pontificate, choosing the March 25th feast date as the day to promulgate important documents, particularly those upholding the sanctity of human life like Evangelium Vitae (March 25, 1995), and he deliberately chose Nazareth and the March 25th Annunciation feast as the time and place for him to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 via a public Mass (part of his week-long papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land) bringing the message of the Incarnation to the world entering the third millennium (for more John Paul II links to the Annunciation see the Fast & Fascinating Facts page).

 

Since then, many countries, with those in Central and South America leading the way, have established an official memorial for unborn children--most often choosing the March 25th feast of the Annunciation for the date of the observance.  In other countries the legislation is being introduced or under consideration.  In 2002, Peru's Congress declared March 25 the “Day of the Unborn” -- officially by Law No. 27654.  Previously in 2001, Peru’s Roman Catholic bishops had announced that the March 25 feast of the Annunciation would be celebrated as the "Day of the Unborn" -- read more here.  In addition to Latin America, the Philippines instituted March 25 as “The Day of the Unborn” through Presidential Proclamation 586 in 2004.  More recently, in 2006 the day was given official recognition in Ecuador by Presidential Decree No. 1441.

 

In Spain the March 25th pro-life day of remembrance has been promoted as the "International Day for Life" with a broadened scope embracing other vulnerable classes targeted by the culture of death -- these efforts include opposition to euthanasia and embryo experimentation that complement the initiatives to end abortion.  Read more about the March 25th "International Day for Life" here.

 

Individual organizations have also endorsed the Annunciation feast date as a day of pro-life remembrance and activism.  In August of 2002, the Knights of Columbus passed a resolution at their Supreme Convention proclaiming, Orderwide, the March 25th Feast of the Annunciation to be the International Day of the Unborn Child; the Supreme Knight's statement on the occasion read:  "May this day be the occasion for all of us to witness to the sanctity of God’s great gift of life and to further resolve to protect and defend it."  Since then the Knights of Columbus have undertaken a wide sweeping organized effort to promote the feast as the "Day of the Unborn Child," and their website offers many recommendations and materials for its observance as such on their Day of the Unborn webpage. 

 

Also in 2002, Priests For Life with two other prominent pro-life apostolates (Human Life International, and the Missionary Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe) issued a joint statement entitled "The Annunciation: A Feast of Life" encouraging special celebration of the feast as marking the moment the Incarnation took place, with special emphasis given to pro-life observances on the day -- the web page also lists over 75 leaders of various organizations who have added their names to the statement.  Priests for Life further urged believers to honor the March 25th feast specifically as the "Day of the Unborn Child" on its "Celebrate the Annunciation" webpage.   

 

At around the same time additional initiatives promoting the pro-life import of the Annunciation in the U.S. began in the Peoria, IL Roman Catholic Diocese via the Family Resources Center, which hosts a festive open house celebration on the feast day and distributes publications on starting an Annunciation Church/School Program as well as a Lenten Reflection service on Christ's prenatal life and Spiritual Adoption programs of prayer for unborn children from the nine months from March 25 to Christmas.  As stated in the Family Resource Center News published by the Peoria Diocese Respect Life Board, "the Feast of the Annunciation program is a beautiful way to teach the reality of the unborn child by following Jesus' own journey in the womb from the Annunciation until his birth at Christmas--a journey that reveals that Jesus was already here on earth as our Redeemer alive in the womb of his mother Mary nine months before Christmas."  Excerpted from a Jan/Feb 2012 Family Resources Center News pg. 3 article by Jan Smith entitled "Prepare Now to Celebrate March 25."

 

American Life League also began promoting the pro-life aspects of the Annunciation feast, offering suggestions for its celebration and advocating its adoption as an official "Day of the Preborn."  To further these efforts, in 2007 the organization announced a year-long campaign collecting online petitions via its DayOfThePreborn.com site to have March 25th declared "The Day of the Preborn" by the President of the United States.  To read more about ALL's emphasis on the importance of the feast of Christ's conception search for the term Annunciation via their website search box.

 

To reinforce the connection between the feasts of the Annunciation and Christmas, some organizations have started initiatives to encourage pro-life activities every 25th of the month.  In 2008 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Venice, Florida began an annual series (Novena) of nine monthly pro-life masses promoted locally via Laity For Life starting on the Annunciation feast and continuing each 25th (or as near to the day as possible) leading up to Christmas -- the "Novena of Masses for Life" focused on the pro-life implications of Christ's life in Mary's womb.  In Ecuador a year-round approach was adopted in 5 parishes of the Archdiocese of Quito with a Mass for the unborn child and the blessing of pregnant mothers on the 25th of every month.  Internationally, pro-life activism each 25th throughout the year has been promoted by veladas25.org (click here for English translation of the site) -- often with special emphasis on the nine months between March 25 and December 25, which incorporates the best aspects of both the year-round and nine-month approaches.  Read more on the specifics of the initiative at the veladas25.org page for this effort (click for English translation), or here for additional information from the site on the reasons for this monthly emphasis (click for English translation).  (For ideas on starting a "25th of the Month Club" click here.)

 

March 2010 saw publication of an interesting article in Christianity Today on the resurgence of interest in the Annunciation including among Protestants (particularly its Christ-centered aspect of celebrating his conception/Incarnation and how the feast has historically assisted the fight against heresy and currently helps Christians see their own faith as incompatible with abortion.

 

Fr. Frank Pavone in his March 19, 2012 Priests For Life e-mail update wrote the following:  "On March 26th, the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation.  March 25th, which is nine months before the celebration of the Birth of Christ, is the Annunciation, when Jesus was conceived within the body of the Virgin Mary as she accepted her call to be the Mother of God. Priests for Life, along with many other pro-life groups, urges believers to celebrate this day as a Day of the Unborn Child, with special observances that highlight the Church's pro-life teachings.  See www.priestsforlife.org/annunciation."  In the March 26, 2012 PFL update Fr. Pavone also included a link to a video he recorded on the Annununciation -- http://youtu.be/NjZqmG9w-ao.  Source-- March 19, 2012 E-mail Update--From: "Priests for Life" <priests_for_life@imcomonline.com>  Subject:  I don't usually recommend movies, but this one you need to see!  Date: Monday, March 26, 2012 5:04 PM, [and also] March 26, 2012 E-mail Update--From: "Priests for Life" <priests_for_life@imcomonline.com>  Subject:  Do you know what Priests for Life is doing at the Supreme Court today?  Date: Monday, March 26, 2012 1:20 PM.  Note:  The video link and the quotations provided are purely informational and imply no specific endorsement of this website or any other similar site.

 

Watch the video in the screen below or go to at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjZqmG9w-ao&feature=youtu.be:

 

 

Transcript (1st half of video):  [Text accompanying the video reads:  "Uploaded by FrFrankPavone on Mar 26, 2012    Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, talks about the Annunciation and the upcoming anniversary of the death of Terri Shiavo.  For more Annunciation resources, please visit http://www.PriestsForLife.org/Annunciation."]  "

"Hello Friends Fr. Frank Pavone here, National Director of Priests for Life.  Every year on March 25th the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation.  This year in 2012 it was transferred to March the 26th because of the Sunday of Lent on the 25th, but in any case this is the day when we celebrate Jesus becoming human--the Incarnation, and the sanctifying of human life not only by God joining himself to that life, but joining himself to it at every stage including as zygote, as an embryo, as a fetus, as an unborn child, in every stage of that journey that we have all made as human beings--God himself was an unborn child.  So we celebrate on the Annunciation in a particular way a day of life.  Many countries have even declared it to be a day of human life.  And in fact Priests for Life is proposing that every year this be a world day of life with a special message from the Holy Father and a special series of celebrations throughout the world promoting the dignity of human life at every stage and in every circumstance...."

 

Priests for Life also announced in its March 2014 letters to donors from Fr. Frank Pavone that one of its "goals is to have March 25 declared worldwide as the Day of the Unborn Child, as it is already celebrated in various countries and by certain organizations."  The mailing also said that this initiative would be launched as part of a "year-long preparation for the 20th anniversary of Evangelium Vitae in 2015," also known as "The Gospel of Life" published by Pope John Paul II on the topic of abortion and our duty to defend children in the womb. [original emphasis.]  Toward that end, a special Annunciation vigil "Worldwide Prayer Vigil for Life" was held in Rome on the evening of March 24 in 2015 to mark the anniversary and observe the feast, which officially begins at sundown the night before the 25th.  It was organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, with Priests for Life participating and assisting in promotion.  An article on the event can be found here -- also read Fr. Pavone's remarks on the event and watch some video footage.  Additional supplementary information on the vigil and anniversary is available at this link.

 

In addition to Priests for Life, Human Life International also advanced its promotion of the pro-life import of the Annunciation in 2014, specifically highlighting the celebration of this feast as "Day of the Unborn Child" and noting Pope John Paul II's support of the idea in its HLI.org website article, "The Feast of the Annunciation: An International Pro-Life Celebration" by Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, the president of HLI:  "March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, marking the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, announcing that she would be the mother of the Savior, the Word made flesh.  It is also the day of an international pro-life celebration: the International Day of the Unborn Child.  Established by Blessed Pope John Paul II to coincide with and honor the Feast of the Annunciation, the pope wanted people in every part of the world to celebrate the gift of life by remembering all unborn human life.  In inaugurating this day in 1999, the great champion and defender of human life united the universal Church in a single act, boldly proclaiming the value of every human life while in the same moment stressing the necessary importance of defending the most vulnerable.   Instituting the day as, 'A positive option in favor of life and the spread of a Culture for Life to guarantee respect for human dignity in every situation,' the soon-to-be Saint John Paul wanted us to reflect on the Incarnation--the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit--because it reminds us of the gift that forever affects human history and affords to man and woman their dignity.  He also wanted to prick the conscience of society by making us remember the millions of unborn children whose lives have been violently ended by the crime of abortion--globally nearly 50 million every year….The Feast of the Annunciation invites us to reflect upon the wonder of every human life, particularly the amazing world of the developing child yet to be born.  Please join me on March 25th by participating in pro-life events in your community.  Let us stand in solidarity with the universal Church in its call to prayer and active defense of every human life.  John Paul II wanted a positive favor for life to be cultivated.  Let us make it a greater reality."  Read the whole article at http://www.hli.org/2014/03/feast-annunciation-international-pro-life-celebration/

 

2016 saw a relatively rare convergence of the date of Christ's conception feast and the commemoration of his death -- Good Friday fell on March 25th.  Interestingly, an ancient Christian tradition teaches that Christ was conceived and died on that very same day of the month -- this belief was already held in the third century and Augustine wrote of it in "On the Trinity" (see the Historical Background page for more).  Although most churches moved the official 2016 Annunciation celebration to April to avoid the conflict, the symbolism of the two observances coinciding was noted as was its rarity -- it has happened only six times since 1900 and won't happen again for 141 years -- read more here.

 

A partial list of countries that officially recognize the day can be found at -- http://hospital-scaravelli.mendoza.gov.ar/index.php?option=com_content&id=139:dia-del-nino-por-nacer&catid=1:noticias (click here to produce an English translation).  Another webpage on the movement can be found here (click here to produce an English translation), and a more recent listing here (click here for an English translation).  Additional details on these and other countries’ establishment of this day as an official observance can be found in the March 22, 2006 article "Latin Americans Poised for Day of the Unborn" at http://www.zenit.org/article-15596?l=english.  A history of these efforts including the initiative to broaden the March 25th "Day of the Unborn Child" to a "Life Day" that includes all "culture of death" offenses against vulnerable human life can be found at sialavida25m.org (click here for English translation).  In 2013 Chile's lawmakers passed "Day of the Unborn Child" legislation despite an attempt by the congressional Human Rights Committee to change its name to “Day for Pregnant Women and Adoption” which would have undermined its true intent.  Read more here.

 

Read more about the "Day of the Unborn Child" initiatives in various nations at the following links:

 

http://prolifemn.blogspot.com/2011/03/international-day-of-unborn-child.html

http://www.lifenews.com/2012/03/24/nations-to-celebrate-international-day-of-the-unborn-child

 

Check the site for updates on the latest countries to adopt March 25 as a Day of the Unborn.

 

 

Page Updated 3/26/2016

 

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