CZESTOCHOWA, Poland (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI encouraged prayers for the lives of the unborn and asked Polish Catholics to ensure their love for life translates into concrete support for those finding it difficult to welcome a pregnancy.

The papal message marked the 25th anniversary of Poland's “Spiritual Adoption of the Unborn,” a project whose participants promise to pray for an unborn baby each day for nine months.

The project began in 1987 as part of the Polish national pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa.

Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw read Pope Benedict's message about the prayer for the unborn before the Mass he celebrated Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, at the Marian shrine to mark the culmination of the 301st pilgrimage to Czestochowa.

In his message, the pope praised those who promote the Gospel values of life and love, opposing abortion and other threats to life, and he prayed that the project would inspire “more open human hearts to bring spiritual help to children whose lives are at risk, and aid to couples facing difficulty welcoming a new life and to families that have experienced the tragedy of abortion.”

The pope said the nine months of prayer, which pilgrims offer as their “spiritual gift” to Our Lady of Jasna Gora, should deepen the pilgrims' relationship with Christ, “perceived in every child conceived.”