From the funerary cadence of the Knights of Columbus who led the procession into the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, to the candles lit in memory of unborn babies killed by abortion in Southern California on that day, the Requiem Mass for the Unborn was clearly an occasion of sorrow.

Yet, the Mass that followed this year’s OneLife LA event on Jan. 22 was also a call to hope in which Archbishop José H. Gomez called for recommitment “to the task of creating an America where human life is cherished and cared for.”

The cathedral was nearly full, mostly with young people. Ecumenical and interfaith dignitaries, representing elements of the Eastern Orthodox, evangelical, Pentecostal, Mormon, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions, were either present or sent greetings.

The belief that all men and women have “undeniable rights to life, liberty, and equality” is foundational to both the Catholic Church and the Constitution of the United States, Archbishop Gomez said.

Jesus “is calling us to liberate our neighbors from the oppression of individualism and indifference,” he said.

Catholics “can never be satisfied when any member of Christ’s body is suffering. We cannot rest while there are some in our society who are being denied their God-given rights and dignity.”

Faithful place candles along the Cathedral colonnade overlooking the 101 Freeway in downtown LA after the Requiem Mass for the Unborn Jan. 22, 2022. (Victor Alemán)

But, nearly 50 years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide, “I can see the day coming — and it won’t be long — when the dignity and rights of the unborn child will finally be respected and protected. Until then we need to continue the work of building a culture of compassion and care,” the archbishop said at the Saturday vigil Mass.

The prayers of the people included petitions to embrace the gift of life amid even in the most difficult circumstances; for public officials to defend life from conception to natural death; for women suffering after abortion to find healing and mercy through ministries like Project Rachel, and for God to guide all people in unity and respect for one another.

Sister Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life, who had spoken at the rally, also spoke briefly at the end of Mass, offering hope and compassion to women who had had abortions, and to those who had encouraged that choice.

“May they know that they are not alone in their pain,” she said. “Let us entrust them too, with sure hope to the Father of mercies ... who desires to mend torn hearts.”

At the end of the liturgy, many people carried forward large votive candles, which were placed around the altar in memory of unborn children who lost their lives to abortion in Southern California last year.

As the candles were carried forward, Emily Kruska read a reflection on how each child’s life had meaning and purpose despite “the injustice of a finish where there should have been a start.”

The candles will be placed in the cathedral’s colonnade and remain lit for a week, visible to all passing traffic on the freeway.