'We Are a Million' Marchers for Marriage in Rome

The plaza near the Basilica of St. John Lateran was jam-packed for the June 20 event.

Scenes from "Family Day" at the piazza of St. John Lateran in Rome.
Scenes from "Family Day" at the piazza of St. John Lateran in Rome. (photo: Edward Pentin photos)

ROME — A far greater crowd than expected descended on the piazza outside the “Mother of All Churches” in Rome on Saturday to take part in a protest against same-sex rights legislation currently passing through the Italian Parliament and the indoctrination of gender ideology in schools.

"We are a million," organizers said from the stage, according to the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. The throng, many of them families, came to the piazza of St. John Lateran to take part in "Family Day." Its aim was to support a child’s right to a mother and father and to assert that they should not be taught sex education from infancy nor “gender ideology.” The piazza has a capacity of 300,000, but it easily exceeded that, according to organizers.

Gender ideology enforces the growing secular idea that sexual orientation is the main criterion of human identity, critics contend. Its opponents, such as German Catholic author Gabriele Kuby, characterize it as a totalitarian attack on human dignity, developing under the cloak of sexual freedom, that will destroy the family.

The high turnout was seen as a major achievement, given that the event was organized in under three weeks and had only tacit support from the Italian bishops’ conference.

“It’s fantastic,” Giovanni Zenone, a father of six from northern Italy, told the Register. “Finally, people have gathered to fight this terrible ideology.”

The square was packed even before the beginning of the event, whose slogan was “Let’s Defend Our Children.” The aim of the demonstration, organized by a coalition of pro-life and pro-family groups, was to “reaffirm the right of a mom and dad to educate their children and stop the ideological colonization of gender theory in schools and in parliament.”

Organizers said the goal of the event was to thwart the “Cirinnà bill.” Introduced by socialist Sen. Monica Cirinnà, the legislation proposes giving same-sex couples many of the rights as married couples. Italy’s bishops have publicly opposed the bill, saying it doesn’t reflect the will of the Italian people, represents “ideological enforcement” and would introduce confusion when the family is “based on marriage between a man and a woman.”

Organizing committee spokesman Massimo Gandolfini said, “We could have chosen other places in Rome, but our challenge was to fill Piazza San Giovanni with hundreds of thousands of families from all over Italy, to protect the innocence of children and their right to have a father and a mother, and to reiterate the clearest opposition to any attempt to change our beautiful constitution by equating homosexual unions to marriage.”

Homosexual-rights advocates note that Italy is the only remaining Western European nation where neither civil unions nor same-sex “marriages” are recognized.

Italy Under Pressure

After the recent referendum to allow same-sex “marriage” in Ireland in May, becoming the 11th European country to have legalized same-sex “marriage,” and now that seven other European countries offer civil unions for same-sex couples, Italy is feeling the pressure to legislate on these issues.

On Saturday, demonstrators held up flags, balloons and colorful banners that read: “Any threat to the family is a threat to society,” “Defend Your Families,” “Hands Off Our Children” and “God Made Them Male and Female.”

They came from all the regions of Italy and included members from the Neocatechumenal Way, which brought 200,000 members from all over the country, representatives from evangelical groups, Italy’s “Movement for Life” and “La Manif Pour Tous,” the France-based organization that staged a massive campaign against same-sex “marriage” and adoption of children by same-sex couples in France in 2012. A similar pro-marriage and pro-family demonstration for marriage in France in 2013 drew more than 1 million people.

Orthodox, Muslim and Sikh leaders also addressed the Rome gathering. Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, both sent messages of support.

Various speakers rallied the crowd with impassioned pleas to end the indoctrination of “gender ideology” in schools. One father explained how his son came home from school telling him his teacher taught his class that Italy is cruel and unjust because it doesn’t allow same-sex “marriage.” “Basta! Basta! Basta!” (Enough! Enough! Enough!) the father shouted to rapturous cheers and applause.

A representative from “The Association of Friends of Homosexual Persons” told the crowd that his organization rejects the Cirinnà bill because “it doesn’t do gay people any good.” Same-sex “marriage,” he added, “makes no anthropological sense other than an injustice.”

Pope Francis Praised

Many praised Pope Francis’ lead in promoting marriage and the family. Most recently, the Holy Father insisted that the “complementarity of man and woman” is essential to marriage and that gender ideology is “demonic.” He has compared it to the educational policies of Hitler and said it fails to recognized “the order of creation.”

Kiko Arguello, the Spanish founder of the Neocatechumenal Way, picked up a guitar and sang to the crowd songs containing Bible verses, including excerpts of the Apocalypse.

“The Holy Father is with us,” he said from the stage. “I wrote to the Holy Father, after receiving letters from some families, and the Pope responded when, last Sunday, he said there are ideologies that colonize families and against which we must act.”

On June 15, Pope Francis called on parents to counter the “ideological colonization” of their children, such as when they are taught by teachers or through school books that differences between male and female are unimportant or are invented social conventions.

“Kiko has warned that if we don’t stop this, in Italy and with the Pope, then gender ideology will be spread throughout the world, especially in Latin America,” said Zenone, a member of the Church movement that was founded in Spain in 1964.

Saturday’s event elicited fierce rhetoric from homosexual-rights activists.

Franco Grillini, president of Gaynet Italy, a homosexual lobby group, called it “a useless and odious event, as are all manifestations of hatred; a festival of homophobia, sad and pitiful, as are all racist demonstrations, where they voice the profanity of hatred towards sexual diversity.”

Ivan Scalfarotto, undersecretary for constitutional reform, said the rally in Rome was “against civil rights.” It is something “rare and unique that there are people who demonstrate against the rights of other people,” said Scalfarotto, who has long been a committed homosexual-rights activist. “We must acknowledge that there are many complexities, but the government is very determined.”

‘A Big Resistance is Gathering’

Giorgia Meloni, of the pro-family group Brothers of Italy, said she hoped this “extraordinary mobilization of people convinces everyone of the opportunity to stop the madness of gender indoctrination in schools.” She said politics “cannot be blind and deaf to the appeal of Italian families.”

“A big resistance is gathering,” said Alessandra Graziano, who was attending the protest along with her husband and son. “In parishes, we have many families who are very worried about this, because in schools nowadays teachers are obliged to teach this, but the Catechism is abolished.”

“This has to change,” she told the Register, but warned that the “gay lobby and those who want gender theory are very strong. They have a lot of money.”

A small number of clergy were also present at the protest. Father Sylvester, a Polish priest studying in Rome, said he was very happy to see such a large crowd.

“The voice of the family is a very important voice, because each civilization passes through the family; it has always been that way,” he said. “The future depends on the family.”

Noting that, a week before, Rome hosted a “gay pride” march, which drew “thousands,” according to Reuters, he said it was vital that “other voices exist” and that families are resisting such attacks.

Father Sylvester said, “I thank God we’re starting to talk a lot about this.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.