In a letter sent to all U.S. bishops Dec. 20, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington announced on behalf of the Holy See that a plenary indulgence can be obtained under certain conditions and with specific intentions by the Christian faithful who are taking part in the “sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life’”...

The March for Life is an annual event held in Washington, D.C., that commemorates the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, that legalized abortion. Attendance is typically estimated at more than 100,000, made up of people from across the United States who believe in the sanctity of all human life.

Events held in Washington and the Diocese of Trenton as part of the March for Life observance include:

• Pre-march, pro-life Mass celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold: 7 p.m. Jan. 18

• March for Life in Washington: Jan. 19. Buses are leaving from multiple locations in the Diocese.

• Post-march, pro-life Mass, celebrated by Bishop O’Connell in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton: 9:30 a.m. Jan. 22. The annual Mass for Life precedes the annual N.J. Rally for Life outside Trenton’s State House Annex, which is set to begin at 11 a.m.

Bishop O’Connell encouraged participation in both the March in D.C. and the local observances in the Diocese that together provide the opportunity for a strong and prayerful statement of one’s support for human life. Since this favor of a plenary indulgence from the Holy See is a privilege, Bishop O’Connell has extended the privilege to include the January 22 Mass at the Cathedral in Trenton, a “sacred celebration” that brings Diocesan participation in this year’s March for Life events to a close.

According to the letter from Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Burbidge, availability of the plenary indulgence is offered “in virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Cardinal Mauro Piacenze, the major penitentiary of the Catholic Church.”  It requires that, in addition to participation in the March for Life events, candidates must meet the usual conditions: sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. 

It additionally stipulates that “the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” will have the same access to the plenary indulgence if “having the disposition of detachment from any kind of sin with the intention of fulfilling, as soon as one is able, the three customary conditions if they spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailment of their own life to the merciful God.”

In closing, Bishop Burbidge and Cardinal Wuerl write, “May the efforts of all across this great nation to lift up the value and dignity of each human life continue to bear fruit, and may we all experience God’s blessings in this noble undertaking.”