Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, on the Death of Nellie Gray

August 14, 2012

“I am saddened to hear of the death of Nellie Gray, 86, a tireless advocate for the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn. She dedicated her life to the pro-life movement, putting the needs of the children above her own.

Nellie Gray founded the March for Life after a meeting with a group of Knights of Columbus in her living room to find a way to properly mark the first anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States. Since that 1974 event, hundreds of thousands from across the country and around the world have marched on Washington to take a stance against abortion, with Nellie at every march. The event was never a ‘Catholic’ event, but rather a time when every pro-life group could come together with one voice for the protection of the unborn.

Drawing on her background as a lawyer, Ms. Gray drafted the Life Principles, using as inspiration the Declaration of Independence and the Fifth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ The principles, framed in the positive tone of the duty and responsibility of each person, lay out a plan to respect the value and dignity of every human being.

Every year, for nearly 20 years here in the Archdiocese of Washington, cardinals, bishops and hundreds of priests from around the United States celebrate Mass for tens of thousands of young people who come to Washington for the March for Life. The Youth Rally and Mass for Life offers attendees inspirational talks and music, and the opportunity to go to confession and to participate in the Eucharist. Held on the morning of the March, those who attend leave for the March filled with the Holy Spirit and the solidarity of the tens of thousands of others who have joined them to stand up against a social injustice.

With the many people whose lives have been touched by her work, I offer my prayers for the repose of the soul of Nellie Gray, and ask the Lord to grant her eternal rest.”

The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 600,000 Catholics, 140 parishes and 97 Catholic schools, located in Washington, DC and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

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