THOUSANDS of protesters are expected to attend a pro-life vigil in Dublin this weekend after Archbishop Diarmuid Martin backed what is expected to be one of the largest rallies since the Government indicated it will legislate to allow abortion.
Many priests across the capital heeded a call by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Martin, to mention the Unite for Life Vigil at Mass yesterday.
Dr Martin said he would attend St Andrew's Church on Westland Row for a "period of quiet prayer" in advance of the rally which will take place on Merrion Square at 4.30pm on Saturday.
Gardai are expected to have a traffic plan in operation for the vigil, which is likely to eclipse the 2,000 people who attended a candle-lit gathering outside the Dail last December.
He asked all priests over the coming weeks to draw attention to some of the "basic principles of Catholic teaching concerning the dignity of human life and regarding abortion.
"Catholic teaching clearly affirms that every human life has unique and irreplaceable dignity. Every human life has the right, from its very beginnings, to flourish and develop as God wants it to," he told priests.
"Compassion and support for women in difficult situations also belongs to the essence of Catholic teaching," he added.
Organisers of the rally said they had sent a "powerful message" to Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the last vigil at the gates of Leinster House last month. However, they said now that Mr Kenny had announced he would be introducing legislation on abortion, it was "essential" pro-life campaigners attended this weekend's event.
Members of the church hierarchy will be lending their support to the vigil.
Meanwhile, Mr Kenny has again sought to reassure his party backbenchers there won't be abortion on demand under the new laws being drawn up.
But he also admitted his party did send out letters before the 2011 General Election promising not to pass legislation.