Many were heartened to see a Catholic bishop preach so boldly at this year’s March for Life. Bishop Paul Swarbrick from the diocese of Lancaster spoke on the main stage in Parliament Square and was clearly aware that he was addressing a mixture of Catholics, other Christians and non-religious. He began by reminding the crowd ‘I don’t need to be a Catholic bishop to know abortion isn’t the way it should be’. Bishop Paul continued ‘Some years ago in the 1960’s we abolished the death penalty for the guilty, why do we still have it for the innocent?’
It didn’t take long for Bishop Paul to warm to the crowd and for the crowd to warm to him. There were frequent rounds of applause and even a drum roll from someone who had brought their instrument to play on the march. ‘We have been told to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives, it’s almost as if we should put in a little word in the middle; save “some” lives’ said the bishop. ‘Those abortions being carried out in the UK 200,000 or thereabouts (annually) – where does that fit in with the saving lives bit?’
Bishop Paul then latched on to a, by now, well-used slogan, as he said ‘All lives matter! It’s not that some matter more than others but some do need that bit more love, they are so easily overlooked.’ Many reasons were then listed as to why someone might be considering abortion but the audience were reminded that nonetheless all lives matter. Bishop Paul affirmed to those present that this included the women suffering after abortions and even those protesting against the March for Life itself – ‘their lives matter too’.
One of the most moving sights of the day was when Bishop Paul led all the pro-lifers in prayer and the thousands present dropped to their knees as Parliament Square became a mass of bowed heads. Everyone recited a prayer together which had been written out on cards so it could be taken home and the bishop articulated the importance of their own small contribution whoever they might be and wherever they were from. He told them ‘Today is a sign of momentum’.
As Bishop Paul’s talk came to an end he spoke about his time in the African missions when he was in Zambia. He decided to teach the enthusiastic crowd a Tonga proverb, splitting the people there into three sections so they could each recite a small part. The words were then translated to show it meant ‘The river is filled with little drops of rain’ The crowd showed their approval with another round of applause and Bishop Paul finished with an encouraging reminder ‘Don’t lose heart, through the little drops of rain, the river is growing’.