A major international conference in defense of the family takes place this weekend in Verona, Italy, bringing together pro-life activists, politicians, Church leaders — and considerable opposition. 

The March 29-31 World Congress of Families aims to equip leaders, organizations and families to “affirm, celebrate, and defend the natural family as the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.”

Subthemes will include “the beauty of marriage,” “children’s rights” and “growth and demographic decline.”

Organized by several Italian and international pro-life organizations, the meeting will feature a wide range of speakers, including Italy’s vice premier Matteo Salvini, President Igor Dodon of Moldova, and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Younan III.

It will end with a March for the Family through the streets of Verona.

But thousands of protesters, mostly militant secularists, “LGBT” activists and pro-abortion campaigners, have pledged to demonstrate in the city during the conference. Some within the Church are also against the congress because they oppose Salvini’s populist Lega party. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has said he agrees “with the value” of the congress “but not in the methods.”

In this March 27 interview with the Register, congress chairman Antonio Brandi says he believes the event is “the right thing to do” at a time when the family is under attack, and also at a moment in history when he believes a growing number of Italians are showing “common sense.”

Brandi, who is also president of the Italian pro-life organization ProVita Onlus, insists the opposition is not wearing the organizers down, and that instead he feels pity for them.

“We’re not afraid of attacks by those on the outside,” he says. “It is the attacks and betrayals from inside that de-motivate us. But with each setback we don’t care. We go forward whatever happens.”

 

Mr. Brandi, what’s significant about this World Congress of Families XIII?

I’m nobody. I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do. There are 10, 20, 30 people who are unknown heroes, giving 14-15 hours a day to make this a success. We also have people against us, in the media, politicians, all those forces that are against the family, women and children.

 

For years, conferences pro-family conferences have taken place across Europe. Why is this one coming under such strong attack?

The funny thing, and this is comical, my friend, is that our head office has been subject of demonstrations also by persons with institutional positions, things thrown at our windows, stained windows, vandalistic acts. But we never attack our opponents, we never go near public demonstrations with people who don’t agree with our ideas, screaming and shouting at them.

The vice president of the congress, Jacopo Coghe, had a journalist come up to him in the middle of the street last night and then behind the journalist came people to insult and provoke him. We know there will be tens of thousands of people protesting against this congress because the Democratic Party, and the so-called feminists are mobilizing from all over Italy.

Having lived abroad since 1971, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never seen so much genuine hatred against people who have done nothing wrong. But I’m not angry, I’m sorry for them because most of these people don’t understand what they’re doing.

 

Do you see the current government in Italy helping you in a major way?

It’s split. One side of the government, which is the Lega Party, is with us, but the majority of the other side, the Five Start Movement, is against us. But the Italian people, notwithstanding tens of years of brainwashing, have common sense and that’s quite encouraging.

Irrespective of the lies, insults, and fake news against us, we are going on calmly and in a determined manner, not reacting to provocation, because it is our opponents who are irrational and violent, not us. We have to follow the example of Christ. At the congress I will say this, and you can repeat it 20 times: It is not God, not Jesus, who has to change to accommodate the desires and needs of people. It is people who must follow the teaching of Christ.

 

What are your hopes from this conference, what tangible changes do you hope or expect to come from it?

We’re going to come out with a final declaration. Subsequently, we’re going to make legislative proposals to protect the natural family, women, mothers and children.

 

You have many well-known names coming, including the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. How significant is that, and what effect could it have?

In times of difficulty, you can distinguish the cowards from the men. You have three categories of people: enemies, cowards that withdraw or even betray you, and the soldiers that go forward. We’re not afraid of attacks by those on the outside. They are strengthening us. It is the attacks and betrayals from inside that de-motivate us. But with each setback we don’t care. We go forward whatever happens.

 

Do you see positive changes overall happening with regard to defending the family?

“Wind of Change” is the title of the congress, and European people, irrespective of their political positions — left, right or center — are coming back to the eternal values of life and family, values that have advanced human society from its beginning.

 

And you see the hand of Providence in this?

Yes, we were lacking funds for this conference but just a few days ago, a gentleman from London called me and sent me a large donation. I cried on the phone because, you see, I felt this was God’s work. People realize what is happening, and even the atheists understand.