WASHINGTON, D.C., NOV. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Pray for the president-elect, and pray for our nation. This was the message Archbishop Donald Wuerl sent to the faithful of the nation's capital city.

"We offer our prayers today for our nation and for our newly elected leaders, including President-elect Obama, as they take on their new responsibilities," the archbishop of Washington, D.C., said the day after Obama won a tightly contested election against Arizona Senator John McCain.

The archbishop recognized the "historic moment" of the election of the first African-American to the presidency, and said he rejoices "with the rest of our nation in the significance of this time."

Archbishop Wuerl expressed a wish that the new leaders "be guided in their decisions with wisdom and compassion."

Repeating a theme of concern for more than 50 leaders of dioceses in this election year who came out with public statements in favor of protecting the life of the unborn, the archbishop said that he also hoped to see in the new administration "a deep respect for and commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life and support for the most vulnerable among us.”

Fresh voice

Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, also commented on the election today, calling it a "historic moment" in the history of the United States.

In comments made to Vatican Radio, Bishop Murphy called the president-elect an "intelligent man" who is able to "move a group with his vision."

"In many ways this nation is tired and wants a fresh voice and a fresh voice, and I think he very much represents this," the bishop affirmed.

Bishop Murphy acknowledged the issue of abortion to be a "major challenge" for this president, who he says is "not pro-choice, but pro-abortion."

The prelate pointed to the "the horror of 40 to 50 million aborted babies," and said that the nation has "systematically excluded a whole portion of our citizenry from sharing in [the right to life]."

"This is a tremendously dark stain on the American nation and [it] contradicts what we claim to be -- a people for whom liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness, which means founded on life, is allowed, is given to everyone," he said.

By not giving the unborn a right to life, "then we are not living up to what we claim to be," he said.

Regarding Obama, Bishop Murphy said the president-elect's record against life has been "very clear," and that the "bishops will be urging him to rethink this. We will be urging him not to ignite further cultural divisions and dividing the country further on this most important issue."

He said they will "urge him to rethink those positions and to try to reflect the widespread feeling that abortion on demand is not a good thing in itself, because it kills children, and that it's not a good thing for our country because it cuts at the very core of a good society."

Abiding hope

The bishops of San Antonio called on the faithful to pray for a culture of life.

In a message posted on the diocesan Web site, Archbishop José H. Gomez of San Antonio, and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú, acknowledged the record numbers of voters who went to the polls to elect the first African American president.

"Let us pray," the continued, "that God will give him the wisdom and compassion that will help shape a culture of life in this land and that he may turn toward policies that protect the most vulnerable among us."