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ROME, June 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Rome on Saturday to protest the imposition of ‘gender ideology’ in schools and to condemn an Italian Senate bill that proposes to give same-sex partners equivalent rights as married couples.

“We rally to defend our children from gender theory introduced in the schools, that damages the innocence and the healthy development of children, to defend the natural family from the assault to which it is constantly subjected by our Parliament, to defend the right of parents to educate their children, and to promote the right of every child to grow up with a father and a mother,” rally organizer and long-time Italian pro-family activist Toni Brandi told LifeSiteNews.

Participants taking part in what organizers called a “family day” packed to overflowing the Piazza San Giovanni in front of the St. John Lateran Basilica.

“We are a million,” organizers said from the stage, reported Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera. While Zenit in Italian has reported a million demonstrators, other news sources such as Breitbart puts the number at half a million, while mainstream media puts the number even lower. Event organizer and Catholic leader Kiko Argüello of the Neocatechumenal Way believes there were even more than a million.

The grassroots-led rally is all the more remarkable in its overwhelming numbers in that it was announced at the beginning of June and received no prior media attention. By Sunday, reports of the rally became front page news in all of Italy’s major newspapers. The rally is even more remarkable in that a similar rally held last year only drew about 600 people. 

Participants, many of them families with children, held banners that stated: “The family will save the world” and “Let's defend our children.”

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“No to gender ideology, no to ideological colonization of our children in the schools, no to the [Senate] bill Cirinnà and gay ‘marriage,’ rally organizers stated in a press release. “The natural family alone is the necessary and fundamental cell of society.”

Brandi told LifeSiteNews that despite Pope Francis’ condemnation of gender ideology on at least four separate occasions, only a handful of Catholic bishops lent their support to the rally.

Organizers say the event was a total success.

“The Piazza was filled with light and truth, without anything homophobic or discriminatory. The families of Italy have come with enormous sacrifices to Rome and have raised their voice to be heard,” the organizers stated in a press release after the event.

“It was a large group of people and families in defense of the family, moved by love for our children,” said Mario Adinolfi, director of La Croce and founder of “Voglio la Mamma” [I need Mama].

Concluded organizers: “It was a family day with a million smiling faces, all crammed, crowded together, under the sun and in the rain, without losing their smiles. Young and old parents, grandparents and grandchildren, children of all ages, even toddlers in prams, all say in unison to those who work in those hallowed halls of power: ‘Hey, we are here! You can not ignore us.’”