WASHINGTON — The pro-life movement must be one of mercy, said Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, Thursday night, at the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

“The pro-life ethic challenges us to care about the sacredness of every human being throughout the life spectrum. We are called always and everywhere to promote the dignity of the human person,” Archbishop Naumann said in his homily at the Mass, which preceded the nation’s annual March for Life Friday.

Attending the Mass were pro-life supporters, seminarians, priests and bishops from across the country ahead of tomorrow’s March for Life, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands from across the country. Among the bishops concelebrating the Mass were Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The archbishop said the idea that pro-lifers care only about the unborn is “simply not true.” He pointed to the care and work of volunteers who give their time and money to support pregnancy centers and other programs to support pregnant women in difficult circumstances.

“We are concerned about the life and dignity of the human person wherever it is threatened or diminished,” said Archbishop Naumann, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference pro-life committee.

“Anyone whose life is threatened and anyone whose human dignity is disrespected have a claim on our hearts.”

Mercy is a force that permeates the entirety of the pro-life movement, said Archbishop Naumann. Pro-lifers should have mercy not only for an unborn child or for a frightened expectant mother, but also for post-abortive parents who “deeply regret authorizing the killing of their own child,” for abortion advocates “who verbally attack (pro-lifers) and label us extremists,” and for those who work in the abortion industry.

It was this mercy that led to “amazing Paul-like conversions of abortion advocates,” who have gone on to “become the powerful pro-life apologists,” said Archbishop Naumann.

Archbishop Naumann highlighted the examples of Norma McCorvey, who was the “Jane Roe” plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, NARAL co-founder and former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and former Planned Parenthood “employee of the year” Abby Johnson. All three had been staunch defenders of abortion until they experienced a change of heart, discovered Jesus’ love and rededicated their lives to ending abortion.

“Pray that, through God’s grace, there will be many more Norma McCorveys, Bernard Nathansons, Beverly McMillans, Carroll Everetts, Ramona Trevinos, Abby Johnsons who will come to know they are made in the Divine Image and that they are of such worth that Jesus died for them,” said Archbishop Naumann.

“May our advocacy awaken the hearts of others to know Jesus’ desire for them to experience abundant life in this world and to share with him eternal life in paradise.”