DUBLIN, Ireland – With a referendum vote that could legalize abortion in Ireland just days away, the country’s clergy and Church leaders are asking the world for prayers.
In a video message posted to YouTube, Irish priest Father Marius O’Reilly appeals to Catholics and Christians around the world to pray for the country of Ireland ahead of the vote, particularly through praying the rosary and offering Masses.
O’Reilly noted that while other countries have legalized abortion through legislation or court decisions, “Ireland would be the first country in the world where the people would legalize abortion,” he said.
“We can’t allow that to happen. And so I’m making an appeal to you today – please come to our assistance. Pray the rosary for Ireland. Please have Masses offered for Ireland,” he said.
On May 25, Irish citizens will vote whether they want to repeal the country’s eighth amendment, which recognizes the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the mother’s health is deemed to be endangered. Pro-life Irish citizens are encouraging a “no” vote on the referendum.
The eighth amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
Despite the high percentage of the population – 78 percent – that identifies as Catholic, polling has predicted that the vote will be close.
Two months ago, EWTN Ireland started a 54-day rosary novena campaign for the “affirmation of the inestimable value of every human life.”
The campaign’s website urges “all people of good will to join together in prayer in defence of unborn babies and their mothers. All those professing faith, and those professing secular values, are invited to join as one voice on behalf of the unborn babies and their mothers: to affirm the life of the most vulnerable who may be classed as terminally ill, disabled or ‘unwanted’.”
A Christian prayer and a secular affirmation were also included on the campaign’s site.
EWTN Ireland as well as many clergy are particularly urging Catholics to pray a nine-day rosary novena leading up to the vote, starting on Thursday, May 17 and ending on Friday, May 25, the day of the referendum.
The novena website Pray More Novenas, which sends out daily reminders for various prayers, has also begun a novena through the intercession of the Irish Our Lady of Knock specifically for the abortion referendum.
There is also a prayer and fasting initiative, inspired by Carmelite Sister Briege McKenna that calls for Masses and days of prayer and “medically safe” fasting to be offered for the “Reparation, Conversions of hearts and Protection of the 8th amendment.”
Pro-life group Human Life International has asked for the offering of 1,000 Masses for the referendum, and has a form on their website where the Masses offered for this intention may be added to the calendar.
In his video, O’Reilly recalled Pope John Paul II’s 1979 visit to the country, during which he urged Irish citizens to defend life.
“He said to the Irish people ‘you must protect life;’ he knew what was coming down the road. And so the Irish people took this very, very seriously and rosary crusades began all around the country,” the priest said.
This also led to the proposal of the constitutional amendment that is currently in place, which gave equal protection to mother and child “so that Ireland would be a country that in the constitution would say that the unborn child has a right to life.”
“This was an incredible gift from God for our country because it meant that the politicians couldn’t just bring in abortion when they wanted. They would have to put it to the people,” he added. “And so we fought it for years and years and now in 2018 we’re being asked to vote on abortion.”
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a Catholic Irish-American men’s fraternity, has asked its members to set aside May 18 as a day of prayer in solidarity with the Save the 8th Campaign.
“Every prayer for a ‘No’ vote is a compassionate plea to spare Ireland the pain America has suffered for 45 years,” Ancient Order of Hibernians National President James F. McKay said, alluding to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that mandated legal abortion across the country.
He encouraged prayers invoking the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Fatima to “save Ireland’s mothers and unborn from the evils of abortion.”
He also encouraged immediate social media outreach as well as discussions with family and friends about “the importance of protecting the unborn.”
Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb. used his May 18 column in the Southern Nebraska Register to ask readers to join him in prayer that the people of Ireland will choose life.
“I pray that the people of Ireland will see that the legalization of abortion in countries around the world has not made women free. That abortion has only caused more violence, more ruin, and more despair,” Conley said.
The bishop said the Catholic faith “has long given the Irish people an acute and attentive sense of human dignity, human rights, and justice,” but Ireland has secularized in part due to “Church leaders who failed to give authentic and faithful witness to the Gospel.”
Conley, who spent a semester in Ireland as a 20-year-old recent Catholic convert, said “my introduction to the day-to-day practice of my newfound Catholic faith was in Ireland.”
“It has now been over 40 years since I spent those four delightful months in Ireland, but I still remember vividly the strong faith of the Irish people and how Catholicism ran deep in the Irish soil and soul. I owe so much to the Irish people for nurturing me in my Catholic faith. And we, as a country, owe so much to the Catholic Church in Ireland for bringing that same faith to these shores.”