The fourth annual March for Life in Rome, which takes place on Sunday, will have an international character that will include a conference of pro-life groups taking place on Saturday.
Last year, Pope Francis personally greeted the estimated 40,000 participants as they arrived at the Vatican for the Holy Father’s Regina Coeli prayer and address.
To find out more about this year’s event and the march’s rapid growth and popularity, the Register spoke May 1 with the march’s founder and chief organizer, Virginia Coda Nunziante.
The march this year is notable for taking place on the feast of the holy Shroud of Turin — could you explain more about this and why it is significant?
Indeed, this year's March for Life will take place on a very special day. On May 4, it is the feast of the holy Shroud, which is the sacred cloth that bears witness to both the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The liturgical feast was approved in 1506 by Pope Julius II, who decided to set the day after the feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross [also known as the Invention of the True Cross].
Historical and scientific studies have now shown that the sheet in which the dead body of Jesus was wrapped is authentic. The shroud is, therefore, one of the most important relics of Christianity and is a testimony to the life that triumphs over death, the love that wins over evil and sin. In the holy shroud, symbol of pain and of eternal life, the March for Life this year will have its seal of protection.
What is the theme for this year, and which groups and individuals will be participating?
This year, the organizing committee has decided to give the march the slogan “For life, without compromise.” This is to reiterate what has been clear since the first edition of the event: that life is a non-negotiable value and, therefore, cannot be subject to failures and compromises.
We decided to take to the streets, really, to radically and firmly oppose any type of abortion law and other laws that threaten life. To defend the unborn is to fight for the repeal of the unjust Law 194, which, since its approval in 1978, has caused the suppression of 6 million innocent children [in Italy]. The clarity of the message we have launched has made the march a success. There are many members who have joined, not only from Italy, but from all over the world. There are also many bishops and cardinals who have given us their support and encouragement. Most of the participants are young people and families. In addition, the march is open to men and women of all political and religious beliefs.
How much has the march grown since it was founded in 2011?
The success of the march is incredible. Within two years, the number of participants has grown considerably. At the first event, held in 2011, in Desenzano del Garda, a small village in northern Italy, not even 1,000 took part. But in 2012, in Rome, we had a good 15,000; and, last year, the number more than doubled to 40,000. In short, if you work and propose powerful ideas, despite all odds, success is assured.
In your view, are we witnessing a change in public opinion on life issues in the United States and the West as a whole? If so, how much does it have to do with greater participation in events such as the March for Life?
Certainly, bioethical issues always arouse some interest, although, today, the focus of policy and public opinion seems more directed to economic issues. Of course, in Italy, we have not yet reached through the march the attention on life we want.
The March for Life in Washington has been held for over 40 years. ... The defense of life and family is always increasingly strong, because the threats to non-negotiable values are becoming stronger. For this reason, we need to consolidate our efforts and continue to witness publicly, without fear and with great perseverance, what we believe.
The population decline, which is the suicide of the West, is a tragic wake-up call, which you cannot answer with abortion and “gay marriage.” People should become sensitized to these issues, and this is the main purpose of events such as the March for Life.
This year’s march coincides with an important conference in Rome on life issues. Can you tell us more about this and how the conference will complement the march?
To accompany the March for Life, which this year takes on a truly international character, in the St. Pius X Hall (near Via della Conciliazione, the central boulevard leading to St. Peter’s), a large conference, sponsored jointly by LifeSiteNews, Human Life International and Family Life International New Zealand, will take place on May 3. It will be attended by representatives of more than 50 pro-life organizations active in 20 countries, including the United States, France, Spain and Belgium.
In the morning, the work will take place behind closed doors: The various pro-life representatives will discuss common strategies for the defense and promotion of policies favorable to the right to life to be developed in relation to political, religious authorities and public opinion. This is very important if you really want to try to influence the decisions made by governments and international organizations in the field of life.
At 1pm, there will be a press conference, during which the decisions that emerged from shared thoughts of the morning will be communicated. The day will then be open to the public at 2:30pm. Two keynote speakers will address those present: Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke and the scholar George Weigel. The representatives of the pro-life associations will briefly present the characteristics of their organizations. As these reports will be in English, simultaneous translations will be provided. The conclusion is scheduled for 6:45pm.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.