BALTIMORE — The U.S. bishops approved adding a staff position in their Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities that would work with Project Rachel and similar post-abortion healing ministries in dioceses across the nation.

The vote was 225-9 Nov. 12, the second day of the public portion of the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore. A majority of bishops present and voting was needed for approval.

The bishops' recent practice has been to not add positions at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops unless a funding source has been found to sustain the position. The Project Rachael-related position will be funded by a grant from the Knights of Columbus.

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, made the request for the position to the bishops' Committee on Priorities and Plans, which at its meeting gave unanimous approval for the request to be made at the fall general meeting.

"Over the past several years, diocesan interest in and expansion of post-abortion healing ministries has dramatically increased. In response, the pro-life secretariat, with the tremendous assistance of diocesan pro-life leaders, has developed many helpful resources and customized diocesan training, yet the demand for help is ever-increasing," Cardinal O'Malley told the bishops before the vote.

"Our website hopeafterabortion.org is now receiving over 5 million hits a year, and that site connects those in need directly to diocesan programs," he added. "While it's encouraging that so many dioceses are asking for help in responding, the pro-life committee recognized some time ago that additional help would be needed."

Cardinal O'Malley said, "We have the opportunity to dedicate a portion of our current and long-standing grant from the Knights of Columbus to fund a staff position dedicated to Project Rachel ministry. While dioceses across the country may use different names for their post-abortion healing ministry, the most common name is Project Rachel ministry," after the Old Testament figure who wept for the loss of her children.

He added, "We envision this position to be a resource to diocesan directors who offer everything from retreats and support group models to training resources for priests."