WASHINGTON, D.C., January 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley condemned abortion in the starkest terms before a packed congregation of over 10,000 in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening, insisting the Church has a duty to oppose abortion.

“The Church with the candor of the child must call out the uncomfortable truth: abortion is wrong,” the Cardinal said as he celebrated the opening Mass of the annual National Prayer Vigil for Life, which occurs the night before the March for Life at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Mass was standing room only, with the faithful filling in all the aisles and corners of the Basilica even a half hour early. As has become customary, the Mass opened with a stunning 35-minute procession, including 33 bishops, 300 priests, 60 deacons, and 550 seminarians. Among the bishops were four Cardinals: Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, and O'Malley.

"We're here because we want to save thousands of innocent children who this year will be executed by the very people whose mission should be to heal and protect life,” said O’Malley.

“The truth is that the only way that we can save those babies is by saving the mothers,” he continued. “When they experience God’s loving mercy then they will be capable of showing that mercy to their children. The pro-life movement has to be about saving mothers. We need to focus on the woman to try to understand what she is suffering.”

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Though the Cardinal is known for his candor on the abortion issue, proudly joining in the March for Life since the first event in 1974, his strong comments are especially significant this year after Pope Francis chose him as a member of his advisory commission of eight cardinals, making O’Malley one of the pope’s closest advisors.

In his homily, the Cardinal compared the pro-life struggle to the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, in which it took a child to proclaim the truth that the emperor in fact had no clothes on at all.

“The king's new clothes today are called reproduction rights, termination of pregnancies, and many other euphemisms that disguise the reality and the brutality that is abortion,” he said. “The crowd applauds the king’s new clothes and people are afraid to question. And those who do not applaud must be stupid, naive, obstinate. The voice of the Church is like the child who declares before the world that the new clothes are a lie, a humbug, a deception.”

O’Malley said the Church upholds a “consistent ethic of life” that recognizes the equal dignity of each and every man, woman, and child, but at the same time insisted on the primacy of the most basic right to life.

“The Gospel of life is the centerpiece of the Church's social teaching,” he said. “When the value of life is compromised or diminished, all life is at risk. When we give the state the power to determine which human beings are worthy of living and which should be eliminated, what we’re doing is opening up a Pandora’s box that unleashes every kind of injustice and violation of human dignity. Life is precious.”

"Human rights without the right to life are the king's new clothes,” he added.

This year marks the 35th annual National Prayer Vigil for Life, which spans the whole night before the March, including confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer according to the Byzantine Rite, holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from midnight until 6 a.m, and morning prayer at 6:30 a.m. The vigil closes with a Mass at 7:30 a.m. to be celebrated this year by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.