About 100 Catholics bowed their heads and prayed for President Barack Obama on Wednesday, during a vigil to promote the sanctity of life at Mesa's St. Timothy Catholic Community church.
The vigil's theme was "prayer, not protest," and was held across the street from Dobson High School where about 1,000 presidential protesters and Obama supporters gathered to await the president's arrival.
The worshipers gathered in the church's grassy amphitheater, some clasping rosaries and some with their hands pressed together as they recited common Catholic prayers.
"We need to take seriously the obligation as citizens to pray for our president and our leaders," said the church's pastor, Father Jack Spaulding. "They need to be lifted up in prayer."
Angela Bevilacqua, 18, an ASU freshman, spent most of the vigil on her knees with her eyes closed and her head bowed. Bevilacqua, who attends Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Tempe, said she came expecting to protest, but was happy to find the peaceful vigil instead.
"I feel like it's spreading a message of hope for life, and for peace instead of all the war and protests for the president," she said.
Obama has struck down a ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information. It is one of many actions the new president has taken to reverse Bush policies.
The move has drawn praise from those who support abortion rights.
Richard Ruiz of Phoenix, who was the last person to get a ticket to Obama's speech at Dobson, alluded to the policy on Monday, saying it was one of the best things Obama has done in a short and so far successful term. Ruiz said he is happy public money will now go towards women's rights to have abortions.