ROME, May 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Rome March for Life this Sunday marked the first time an Italian Bishop has attended. While Vatican Cardinal Raymond Burke has been a fixture at the March for many years, this year Archbishop Luigi Negri was in attendance. In addition, Kazakhstan Bishop Athanasius Schneider also attended the March. The traditional Saturday night prayer vigil before the March this year also had a first-time special guest as Cardinal Burke was joined by Cardinal George Pell.
Rome March for Life President Virginia Coda Nunziante told LifeSiteNews “It is extremely important for the March for Life that Italian bishops take part with members of their diocese.” She believes as has happened in other countries that Bishop Negri may begin a new chapter in the Rome March for Life. “I hope many other Italian bishops will follow his example.”
Thousands showed up Sunday to witness to the value and dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death. It was the sixth annual March for Life (Marcia per la Vita). Young and old, religious and lay, married and single held colorful balloons and banners; they sang, danced, and chanted pro-life slogans as they marched through the cobble stone streets of the eternal city.
Pro-lifers first heard inspiring speeches and testimonials in Bocca della Verità piazza — the square named after the the Mouth of Truth carving located nearby — before beginning the three kilometer walk to St. Peter’s square.
Coda Nunziante told LifeSiteNews that she hopes the event sends two important messages to the Italian government: Stop funding abortion and don’t legalize euthanasia.
“We would like to tell our government that Italy is dying — because we have a birth rate of 1.3, well below the replacement level — and it is almost beyond belief that instead of helping families to have children to increase the birth rate, our government is giving around €200 million annually for killing our babies by abortion, paid for by our taxes,” she told LifeSiteNews in a earlier report.
“We are sending a clear message to our government to stop funding abortion and to use that money instead to help families,” she said.
People traveled from great distances to be part of the event. Amie Kaufman, 12, travelled with her parents from New Zealand to first attend the Rome Life Forum before attending the March for Life. She told LifeSiteNews that it is important to publicly witness to life.
“It’s a witness to everyone else that life is important. Young babies are being killed by abortion. This is bad, because everyone should have the right to life,” she said.
Kaufman hopes that the thousands of fellow pro-lifers along with their balloons, banners, and chants will send a strong message to Italy and to the world.
“We want people to realize that it is wrong to kill babies. We are marching because we want to see abortion stop,” she said.
Also attending the march were internationally renewed heroes of the life-and-family movement including, Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of Saint Gianna Molla.
Dr. Molla said she attended the event as a way of celebrating the gift of life.
“I am so very happy to be in Rome today to attend the March for life,” she told LifeSiteNews.
“Every day, every morning, when I wake up, I thank the Lord, and the Virgin Mary, my most beloved Saint Mom and my most beloved Dad for the gift of life, because the gift of life is really the most important gift, the most sacred and special gift. We always have to honor, respect, and defend life,” she said.
Maria Lousia Caselle, whose husband Fabrizio Verduchi is the President of Italia Cristiana — a political movement that defends life, family, and Christian values — attended the march with her husband and three young children.
“We march because we believe in the value of life,” said told LifeSiteNews.
Ellen Stefanyan, who works in Rome at a Catholic educational institute, told LifeSiteNews that she hopes that people who are indifferent to attacks against life will have their conscience’s pricked by the pro-life public witness.
“I hope that this witness will somehow awake consciences and give a voice to those who do not have one,” she said.
The marchers eventually made their way to St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis’s Sunday recitation of the Regina Coeli at noon. Only a small number, however, managed to make it into the square due to security personnel in insufficient numbers who demanded that marchers open back packs and bags before allowing them to enter the square. Security personnel also did not allow marchers to enter the square who carried banners with photographs depicting the gruesome reality of abortion.
After praying the Regina Coeli from his high balcony, Pope Francis greeted various groups present in the square, including welcoming those who were “participating in the march for life.”
When the Pope mentioned the marchers, a huge roar went up from the marcher’s outside St. Peter’s square, who, despite their location, where still able to hear the Pope’s words through the sound system. Their roar resounded throughout the square, and appeared to take the Holy Father by surprise, who stopped his welcome announcements before beginning again.