Aleteia

Marching for Life in the Eternal City

2015 March for Life photos, courtesy of Edward Pentin
2015 Rome March for Life photos, courtesty of Edward Pentin
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Rome takes her cue from American pro-lifers

ROME — Sunday, May 10th, marked the 5th annual March for Life in Rome. Thousands of marchers gathered on the Via della Conciliazione in front of St. Peter’s Square to bear witness to the sanctity and inviolability of human life from conception until natural death.​

Despite the victory of the pro-life cause in the IVF referendum held shortly after Pope Benedict’s election, the cause of life and the family has declined in recent years in Italy. The Italian Parliament has just legislated to render divorce much easier, and the Italian birth-rate, the worst in Europe, is unsustainably low, an aspect of the Mediterranean refugee crisis little reported by the secular media.

A passionate witness of Italian pro-lifers and participants from around the world offered an alternative path to an increasingly secular culture. Pope Francis greeted the marchers in his Regina Caeli address, just as he did in person shortly after his election to the papacy in 2013. 

The establishment of the March for Life in Rome, in imitation of the annual demonstration in Washington, DC, was also inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s January 19, 2012 address to American bishops, in which he called for an “engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity” to present the “Christian vision of man and society” in the public square.

Pope Benedict told US bishops: “With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. 

He added: “The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a ‘language’ which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world.”

“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public,” he said. “[S]he seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”

As has become tradition, the distinctive figure of one American prelate, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, in the attire of his office was seen walking alongside the other marchers in defense of life.

“Cardinal Burke has been with us since we came to Rome,” said Rome March for Life organizer, Virginia Coda Nunziante. “He led the prayer vigil with us, and delivered a wonderful talk, as he also did this year at the Church of San Salvatore in Lauro. And he comes dressed as a cardinal. He’s become such a point of reference for so many people.”

The march extended as far as the eye could see as it progressed from the Vatican to the vicinity of the Circus Maximus.

The crowd was addressed by pro-life leaders from around the world, and many more organizations participated in the march itself. 

Nunziante said: “We have to be the strong voice of this significant minority in order to become a majority in Italy. In the United States, when the pro-life movement started, they too were the official minority. But now they are 51%. This is an extraordinary result, and I suspect that in Italy the percentage of those who are pro-life is greater than those who are pro-abortion, but they are scared to say it.” 

She then observed: “If you are against abortion, you have to be quite courageous. And so what they need to be given is the courage of their convictions. These marches offer that courage. They show people that they are not alone, that there are many others who think as they do, and who want to send a powerful message to politicians and stop abortion, who do not want euthanasia to be legalized.”