Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor gave the following reflection at the United Christian Service of Remembrance, Healing and Hope to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Abortion Act held at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 27 October 2007
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear friends.
I feel very moved at being with you today for this service of prayer and remembrance and I feel that there must be countless numbers of people, fellow Christians, people of other faiths and perhaps people of no faith, who would have wished to be with us here to remember those who have been lost through abortion and to pray for a change of heart and mind for the people of our country. So I think the first thing that comes to my mind as we come to the end of this service is our prayer that the minds and the hearts of the people of our country might be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to think again about this fact of our society, namely, the nearly 200,000 abortions that occur every year. Think also of the pain and anguish that comes with it for so many women who, perhaps, feel they have no choice. No choice, because there’s no counselling, no help, no support. We cannot do it ourselves, we need the whole of society to understand that there needs to be a conversion of mind and heart.
I also think we should help and support the politicians who wish to change the law. We may not be able to abrogate, to consign the abortion law to oblivion all at once. But we do want to help and ask our politicians to listen to the people of our country. At least as a first step there can be a lowering of the age limit. I was reading Pope John Paul in his encyclical ‘The Gospel of Life’, in which he says, “Where it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, an MP, whose absolute personal opposition to procure abortion is well known could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of personal opinion and public morality.” (Evangelium Vitae, para 73) Gradually, step-by-step, this could happen. We can remember that as in apartheid or in slavery it took a long time to change public opinion. And all I want to say to you, my dear friends, is to persevere. This is a wonderful opportunity to express what we feel about abortion and about the sanctity of life. But it doesn’t end here. Day after day, week after week, year after year it is people like us and countless others who want to uphold the sanctity of life and in this case it is the sanctity of life in the womb. There is a saying that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. And I feel today by our prayer, by our witness, we are lighting a candle. In a few moments’ time 40 candles will be lit remembering the 40 years since the passing of the Abortion Act. As those candles are lit, quietly, in the depths of our hearts, we will not only remember, we will also express our hope and our prayers to the Lord that he will help us and countless others to give witness to the sanctity of life and bring healing and hope to our country, to our people and especially to those who are afflicted in so many ways.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your goodness and we ask you to help us as we give witness to the Gospel of Life. Help us to persevere, to continue to keep alight the light of hope and the light of life. Amen.