Some 40,000 people are estimated to have gathered in Rome on Sunday to participate in the March for Life, including some notable figures from the United States pro-life movement.
The March began Sunday morning outside the Colosseum and concluded at Castel San Angelo. Many of the marchers continued on to Saint Peter’s Square to receive the midday Regina Caeli blessing from Pope Francis. During his address, the Holy Father made special mention of those taking part.
“I greet the participants in the ‘March for Life,’ which took place this morning in Rome and I invite all to continue to be attentive to this very important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception,” the Pope said.
He encouraged everyone to participate in a Europe-wide petition to end abortion, called the “One of Us” initiative. Pope Francis then invited everyone to attend “Evangelium Vitae” Day next month, saying it would be “a special moment for those who take seriously the defense of the sacredness of human life.” The “Evangelium Vitae” Day is a Year of Faith event that will take place June 15-16 in Rome.
After the blessing, the Holy Father went out in the popemobile to greet the marchers who had gathered just outside Saint Peter’s Square.
Sunday’s event was Italy’s third March for Life, and the second to take place in Rome. Organizers noted that it was purposely modeled after the March for Life that has been taking place in Washington DC for decades.
Virginia Coda Nunziante, spokesperson for the March, told ZENIT that, in comparison to last year’s event – which gathered an estimated 15,000 people – there was “much more enthusiasm, and much more participation from foreign delegations.”
“The Roman March is becoming an official international March, with participants from all around the world,” she said.
Nunziante was not the only one to take note of the international character of the March. Joseph Meaney, the Rome-based director of international coordination for Human Life International, a co-sponsor on the March for Life’s organizing committee, told ZENIT that “one of the things I find most charming about this March is the Polish contingent.”
One group in particular from western Poland “does nothing but pro-life marches all year long. They have this enormous banner with Humanae Vitae written out in Polish that the young people have done.
“It’s great to have these wonderful Poles here supporting the Italians and making this a real European affair.”
All over the world
Lila Rose, founder and director of the Washington, DC-based Live Action, was one of the key note speakers at the opening rally. This being her first March for Life in Rome, she told ZENIT that “the energy and the enthusiasm of the people here, to remove abortion from Italy, and make it a country that protects all human rights, is a beautiful thing to see. It’s not just here in Italy, it’s not just Rome, it’s not just Italians, it’s not just Europeans: it’s people from all over the world, and we’re marching together in solidarity for the protection of the weakest.”
“Human rights are something given to us by God,” Rose continued. “God is the one who is leading this battle because God loves everyone. Whether we’re Americans or Italians or Europeans [from another country], it doesn’t matter: we have to restore our most fundamental human rights for the weakest.”
Also participating in the event was Elizabeth Hickson Frappier, an American who was one of the main organizers for the March for Life in Brussels, Belgium. “It’s so incredibly hopeful,” she told ZENIT, describing her impressions of the March, “because you see more and more the joy and the passion and the reality that we’re really starting to believe that we can end this, like other horrible human rights violations.”
Healing and hope
“It’s really inspiring to see the Europeans coming together,” she continued. However, while it is encouraging to see the joy among the Italian pro life movement, she said, it is nonetheless important to remember how “this really is an issue where you have an entire society that’s offering a woman, in a difficult moment, a decision of violence instead of a decision of peace. Any society that offers a woman such a decision is a society that degrades her, is a society that does not know the heart, and soul and dignity of a woman, that every one of us women has enough love to love this child, to give birth to this child.”
“What we need in Europe are places where women can go for healing and hope, where they are not feeling any judgment,” she said. “We need them healed. We want their wholeness so they can join this fight. They are the voices that can say: We gave up a little voice, and something in me broke, and this needs to stop. [Abortion] is hurting women, and hurting children.”