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Annual National Prayer Vigil for Life will be virtual, marking ruling that legalized abortion; Bishops host Holy Hours

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People arrive for the National Prayer Vigil for Life Jan. 23, 2020, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 vigil will only be broadcast Jan. 28 at 8 P.M. ET, and then bishops from across the country will take turns leading livestreamed Holy Hours throughout the all-night vigil. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

WASHINGTON — Each year on the night before the annual March for Life, at least 10,000 people have filled the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

This year, due to local restrictions on attendance sizes because of the pandemic, the prayer vigil will be virtual.

Catholics across the country are instead being are encouraged to take part in a nationwide prayer vigil from Jan. 28 through Jan. 29, marking the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion.

Bishop Malooly celebrates Mass during the St. Martin de Porres Mass at St. Joseph’s Church, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Dialog photo/Don Blake

The vigil will begin with a live broadcast at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 28 from the basilica, starting with the praying of the rosary followed by Mass. Bishops from across the country will be leading Holy Hours throughout the night in the livestreamed vigil.

In the Diocese of Wilmington, Bishop Malooly will contribute with “Holy Hour for Life” that can be seen at 4 a.m. Jan. 29. He will celebrate “Mass for Life” the same day at 10 a.m. Both events will be hosted at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington.

The service can be viewed on EWTN or livestreams from the basilica or from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The principal celebrant and homilist for the opening Mass will be Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, USCCB’s chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. The vigil will end at 8 a.m. Jan. 29 in a closing Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.

“Now, more than ever, our nation is in need of prayer for the protection of the unborn and the dignity of all human life,” Archbishop Naumann said in a statement. “I am happy to be joined by bishops in dioceses across the country who are hosting pro-life prayer events including during the overnight hours of Eucharistic adoration. I invite all Catholics to spend time with our Lord and join in this nationwide vigil for life.”

The National Prayer Vigil for Life is hosted by the USCCB’s Pro-Life Secretariat, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America’s Office of Campus Ministry.

The closing Mass for the vigil Jan. 29 will be open to the public but because of attendance restrictions allowing only 100 people inside the basilica, admission will be allowed on a first-come, first-served basis.