A group of activists project pro-abortion messages on the national shrine during the March for Life prayer vigil | National Catholic Registry

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“The attempted desecration is enormous. Devilish,” tweeted Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco. “Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen.”

WASHINGTON — Pro-life Catholic leaders reacted with shock and disgust to a group of activists projecting pro-choice messages onto the facade of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Thursday night in Washington, DC, at the day before the annual march for life.

The group Catholics for Choice took responsibility for the footage, which was broadcast from a median opposite the basilica as a prayer vigil to end abortion took place inside.

In large letters visible for blocks around the basilica, the messages read “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS YOU ARE NOT ALONE”, “1 IN 4 ABORTION PATIENTS IS CATHOLIC” and “PRO CHOICE CATHOLICS”.

Other slogans included the words “STOP THE STIGMA” and “START LISTENING” on the church. The words were projected onto both the 329-foot steeple and the upper facade of the church above the main entrance.

Ashley Wilson, director of communications and strategy for Catholics for Choice, tweeted an explanation of the group’s protest.

“I know my faith teaches Catholics to honor their personal conscience,” she wrote. “And yet, the Catholic hierarchy seeks to polarize pro-choice Catholics and vilify people who make the moral choice to have an abortion.”

“I’m tired of feeling shame and stigma for being a pro-choice Catholic,” Wilson added. “And I’m not here for people to judge my own personal relationship with God.”

6:42 p.m. EST Catholics for Choice tweeted “FACT: 68% of Catholics want #RoeVWade remain the law of the land. The #WalkForLife & @usccb I want people to think they speak for Catholics, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The footage was first reported on Twitter at 6:31 p.m. EST by Religion News Service reporter Jack Jenkins. Widely shared on social networks, the images have aroused some support but also strong denunciations.

“The attempted desecration is enormous. Devilish,” tweeted Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco. “Mother Mary, pray for them, now and at the hour of death. Amen.”

“Just when you thought @Catholic4Choice couldn’t get any lower. The group inside is praying for babies and mothers, and for the group outside to repent and believe the gospel,” tweeted Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

“The President of the United States is the most prominent Catholic in America. He must condemn this immediately,” CatholicVote.org tweeted. “His implicit disregard for Catholic social teaching on life has fueled this division in our church that militants are now exploiting.”

Others were in disbelief at the images they saw of the basilica.

“If this is real, this is an atrocity. Support for the planned murder at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception??? tweeted Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas. “I pray this is a fake photo retouched for malicious purposes. If it’s real, it’s horrible and even pretending is wrong.

Provocative Catholic Action for Choice underscores rising hostility to this year’s March for Life, as many pro-life Americans hope the US Supreme Court will strike down the 1973 law Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A decision in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected in June.

On Saturday, a group called NYC for Abortion Rights plans to hold a rally called “F—- the March for Life” outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan. “Come picket and MAKE NOISE with us!! We’re disrupting the Catholic Church’s anti-abortion bull – on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision,” the group tweeted on Wednesday.

“MEANWHILE, we will commemorate by disturbing their bull—— as much as we can, to the symbol of the grotesque power of the Catholic Church in New York. Come talk, sing, play and show the antis that abortion isn’t going away, and neither are we,” the tweet read.

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