Despite the grid-locked motorways marking the onset of the half-term holiday, the majority of our 120 walkers managed to defy the odds by arriving on time for the annual sponsored walk for Right To Life in Clitheroe on Bank Holiday Monday, 30 May.
We were very grateful to Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly, Bishop John Arnold of Salford and Lord David Alton of Liverpool for joining us for the event once more, and they addressed those gathered prior to the start of the walk. Lord Alton outlined the most recent matters being dealt with via the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group and spoke of the relentless threats to human life in all its stages, including the determined push for abortion up to birth for any reason. The Royal College of Midwives has – surprisingly – officially backed this campaign, though this position was adopted in isolation by the CEO of the RCM without any consultation with their membership.
Lord Alton also highlighted the proposed introduction of pre-natal testing that will lead to a profound reduction in the number of children with Down's syndrome. This will worsen the current situation for this community with over 90% of UK families with a diagnosis with the syndrome already choosing to proceed to abortion. He talked about the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign which is attempting to delay implementation of the new tests until it can be assured that they will not have a detrimental effect on the population of people with Down's syndrome and their families. Moreover he called for support for initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary, in 2017, of the Abortion Act and the subsequent death of over eight million unborn babies.
Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly, in his address, quoted Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: "Do I make my plans like a worldly person, ready to say Yes and No at once? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you ... was not Yes and No; but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God."
He gave this quote to "put a spring in our step today and all that today affirms" and added that "the walk will open up to us creation in all the vitality and joy and exuberance of the Ribble Valley". He completed his address with a prayer and asked everyone to join him in singing 'Laudato si, o mi Signore'. Many were singing it for the first time and there was no rehearsal – yet it was both uplifting and beautiful. Bishop John Arnold of Salford, prior to imparting his blessing on those present, described the event as not just a walk but a "pilgrimage" in recognition of the sanctity of life.
Our kind hosts were, for the seventh consecutive year, the parishioners of Our Lady of the Valley (Saint Michael and Saint John). Their parish priest, Monsignor John Corcoran, led the walkers along the eight-mile circular route, which he had marked out with yellow ribbons. Stewards from the Knights of Saint Columba ensured everyone's safety and the ladies of the parish pulled out all the stops, yet again, to provide a wonderful afternoon tea. It was a very blessed day and to the many who prayed for its success and the safe transit of all participants, thank you; your prayers were answered and the event was indeed a huge 'Yes' to Almighty God.