MUMBAI, India — Marches for Life have become a staple of Catholic political activism around the world, but in late October in Mumbai, India, the exercise got a fairly original twist – linking the Church’s traditional anti-abortion position explicitly to Pope Francis’s pro-environment leadership, styling them as two sides of the same coin.

The Oct. 23 march from St. Andrew’s church in Bandra, a Mumbai suburb, to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount, was led by bishops, clergy, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and a large number of lay faithful, including youth and activists involved in issues of the family and the healthcare apostolate.

The event concluded a national symposium titled “A Call to Human Freedom and Justice in the Family and Society: Ethical Concerns and Pastoral Approaches,” held on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Mumbai’s Diocesan Human Life Committee.

The symposium, jointly organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the Mumbai Justice and Peace Commission, and a Mumbai-based Bio-Medical Ethics Center, reflected on fundamental ethical values from the viewpoint of the Church’s moral teaching.

Bishop Agnelo Gracias, an auxiliary of Mumbai, emphasized the wide range of pro-life concerns on display.

“Human life is threatened today on so many fronts – at the start of life, there are powerful forces promoting abortion, seeking to snuff out life,” he said. “Throughout life, there are many threats – the deterioration of the environment, for example, is surely a threat to life.”

He added: “If the present trend continues, the earth will no longer be a habitable dwelling place for human beings. Right at the end of a person’s life, there are voices clamoring for euthanasia,” he said.

Participants in the national symposium were bussed in from the archdiocesan seminary to St. Andrew’s church. After a brief history of the church, currently celebrating its 400th Jubilee, pilgrims walked to a memorial to the unborn in the parish’s lush green cemetery.

At the memorial — the first in the Archdiocese of Mumbai — pilgrims prayed the Rosary before walking up to the basilica bearing pro-life/anti-abortion placards.

After passing through the holy doors of the basilica, Gracias offered three reflections to guide the March for Life.

  • A Spirit of Thanksgiving for the gift of Life. “Each of us has been created by God, and there is a purpose for our life and it is essential that we have a deep sense of thanksgiving for life. This gratitude has prompted us to come on this pilgrimage to March for Life.”
  • “Life is threatened, [and] this March for Life is an act of solidarity with those working to preserve, protect and promote life in different spheres.”
  • “We have come on the March for Life to choose, cherish and celebrate life and to adopt a pro-life stance in all that sustains life, including the environment.”

A pro-life prayer was recited by all the pilgrims, followed by a solemn benediction by Bishop John Rodrigues, rector of the basilica.

“When we speak of human life, we speak of every aspect of human life, which would include the spiritual, psychological, emotional, intellectual, ethical, social, cultural dimensions and environmental,” said Bishop Savio Fernandes, another Mumbai auxiliary.

“In fact, anything and everything that is being done on the face of this earth impacts human life,” he said. “Human Life is a gift from God and hence, is sacred from conception till the end of our life here on earth.”

“It is precisely in this ‘life’ that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance,” he said. “Hence, during the last couple of days we have reflected and deliberated on all these various dimensions of human life, especially in relation to the family, so as to understand if we have been viewing and living our human life from God’s perspective or from our own perspective.”

“God created the human family so that the members could experience love and mercy — love of God and of one another and mercy from God; and mercy from one another,” Fernandes said, adding: “Love and mercy are broad terms, which would include religiosity, acceptance, respect, appreciation, trust, sacrifice, selflessness, tolerance, commitment, sincerity, honesty.”

“Families, where these values abound,” he concluded, “experience peace joy, stability and unity.  Families who lack these values ultimately end up as broken families.”