Monday 28 April 2008

Witness in York

Yesterday, 27th April, was the 40th Anniversary of the day when the 1967 Abortion Act became law in Britain. Leeds People for Life together with Europe Pro-Life held a York Martyrs Pro-Life public Witness in the city of York. We claimed the intercession of the York Martyrs as we sought to give public recognition to the 7 million babies aborted under the Act and to seek to make reparation for this sin, and to ask the Martyrs to help us build a better culture with genuine laws.
The Witness began at 1pm with prayers in St Wilfred's church near the west front of the Minster. We were 150 strong as we filed out into the street to begin our procession through the city, praying the Rosary as we went. Some carried banners, others white crosses, others still, bunches of white and red roses. We followed a route closely associated with York's greatest citizen, St Margaret Clitherow. This next photo shows the procession passing down one of York's most popular streets - Stonegate. Shopkeepers and shoppers alike stopped their Sunday pursuit to take in this extraordinary manifestation of Christian hope in the centre of this hugely secular city.

Crossing the Ouse Bridge we came to the place where the old Toll Booth had stood. It was here in 1586 that St Margaret Clitherow suffered the penalty peine forte et dure for refusing to plead at her trial in which she was accused of harbouring Catholic priests. She was pressed to death close to the steps down which our procession filed. Nothing could intimidate her; neither the State, nor the judge, nor the culture - and she gave her life for Christ, for truth, for the Church.

Here, by the bank of the River Ouse we cast our roses into the river; each one a gesture of love and recognition; each one representing 200,000 babies.

We then passed down Micklegate and were welcomed by the Sisters of the Bar Convent. Originally a house of the Congregation of Jesus, the Bar Convent was founded in the 1760s and is a house of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin. It's "discrete" chapel with Priest Hole also contains the relic of the hand of St Margaret Clitherow. It was 3pm when we packed into the chapel and we prayed the Divine Mercy before venerating the relic of this wife, mother and martyr of Christ.

She was laid on the ground, a sharp stone beneath her back, her hands stretched out in the form of a cross and bound to two posts. Then a door was placed upon her, which was weighted down till she was crushed to death. Her last words during an agony of fifteen minutes, were "Jesu! Jesu! Jesu! have mercy on me!"

Our procession then continued another mile out to the site of the York Tyburn on the Knavesmire. Here I spoke to the pilgrims about some of the martyrs who died here and we entered into a time of intercession, relying on the powerful prayers of the martyrs for an overturning of the culture of death in our country and for grace to build a better culture.

This tremendous act of witness will be organised again.

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