Leaders in the pro-life movement from around the world were in Rome over the weekend to take part in the city’s third annual March for Life.
Some 50,000 people took to the streets on Sunday in peaceful protest on behalf of the unborn, walking from Piazza della Republica to Saint Peter’s Square. The event concluded with the Regina Caeli blessing by Pope Francis, who welcomed all the participants in this year’s March.
Sunday’s March for Life was preceded by a conference the day before to gather the international leaders in the pro-life movement together to discuss several themes, namely: the outreach the public, the outreach to religious leaders, and outreach to politicians.
Speaking with ZENIT ahead of the event, March for Life’s founder Virginia Coda Nunziante spoke about the aims of this year’s March, and some of the long-term goals for the pro-life movement internationally.
ZENIT: Where does Italy as a whole stand on the issue of abortion at this point in time?
Nunziante: Italy and Italians are facing the problem of abortion, and the March for Life has helped a lot in this because it is an open event on the public square. I hear many young women saying: But we never really understood what abortion was like. This is because, what they’re taught in school, and in the university usually, is something different from what abortion really is. So, having an event on the street, has helped them consider what abortion really is.
Because Italy has a very low birth rate, perhaps one of the lowest in Europe, [abortion] affects the general situation of the Italian people. There are not enough births to replace [the population]. Young people are interested in this issue and understand that it is also something that concerns their future.
Of course there are many associations that work on abortion issues. That said, now, in the 40 years since we’ve had abortion in Italy, it is time to have something that can have an impact on a public level. Otherwise, it will always remain within private [pro-life] associations that do their work and do it very well, but it is not enough to let more people know.
ZENIT: What is different this year?
A great change that we had this year is that there has been new elections in Rome, and so the mayor of Rome has changed. The previous mayor – Giovanni Alemanno – both years has supported the March, and came to the March. Last year he also made a brief speech before the beginning of the March, and so he helped in different ways.
This year we have a new mayor, and this new mayor is very much against all pro-life issues. I would say that he’s very much against all non-negotiable values. He’s in favor of euthanasia, he’s in favor of abortion, he’s in favor of [same-sex] weddings – all the things that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have fought against he is in favor of. This is why we don’t have his support, or the support of the city of Rome. And of course, this is something that we need for this event.
ZENIT: Could you speak about the conference that preceded this year’s March for Life?
Nunziante: This conference was the idea of three different international organizations in defense of life. Two of them attended last year’s March here in Rome. Usually they attend Marches from all over the world and cover these issues. One of them is Life Site News, and the other one is Human Life International. These two associations organized the conference along with the Association for the Defense of the Family in New Zealand.[They thought it would be very] important to have a meeting every year of all pro-life leaders in the world. Their idea is to invite all pro-life leaders from all around the world to come and meet to Rome in order to know each other better, to know what the other is doing, to learn from the other experiences, and also to have a common goal for the future.
They invited Cardinal Burke, who is of course one of the main religious leaders in defense of life. He’s always supported our March, and he’s always supported the American March for Life. They also invited George Weigel, the official biographer of John Paul II, who [was] here in Rome for the canonization. He [delivered an address] on the importance of Evangelium Vitae by John Paul II in the pro-life fight of today.
ZENIT: What fruits do you hope will come from this meeting?
Nunziante: As a result of this congress, the Italian March will probably become an international March that will take place in Rome. This is something that will be possible and I think it will be very interesting for the pro-life movements in the world, to have at least once in a year a place to meet, and to also be more united. We have to learn from our enemies, that when we have to fight something – as with gender issues and other issues – they are very united and they work throughout the whole world imposing their agendas. We should do the same in the pro-life movement: we have to have the same agendas, and [present] them to the whole world.
ZENIT: Would you say that the canonization of John Paul II will help to bring new attention to the importance of life issues?
Nunziante: John Paul II, with his Evangelium Vitae, gave strong support to the pro-life fight. In fact, this is the reason why George Weigel was asked to speak about this because, after Humanae Vitae of Paul VI, [Evangelium Vitae] was the second most important document on that issue. For all the pro-life movement, I think it is extremely important to reflect on this and see how John Paul II, and then Benedict XVI, insisted on the defense of life as the primary right of the human being. If we don’t give the right to life, as with abortion, then there will be no other rights possible.