Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Organizer hopes astonishing growth of Rome March for Life will kick-start public debate

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, April 17, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Organizers hope that the 3rd annual Italian Marcia per la Vita Nazionale (National March for Life), set for May 12th in Rome, will kick-start a public debate on abortion that has remained tightly locked among the political classes since 1978. 

LifeSiteNews.com spoke Virginia Coda Nunziante, the main organizer for the annual event, in a video interview conducted by Steve Jalsevac this past January at the time of the Washington March for Life and then again today in Rome.  Nunziante said that the astonishing success of the March for Life in recent years has come as a pleasant, and encouraging surprise to organizers. Last year, organizers had prepared for maybe five or six thousand attendees, and were shocked when 15,000 showed up.

“We are not a big organization, we don’t have newspapers helping us, we just have websites. So I think that 15,000 people coming to Rome supporting the march, is a clear sign for our politicians,” she said.  

The march was first organized after many years of legalized abortion in Italy and amidst general acceptance of the legal status quo. Abortion rates remain relatively low in this country, and doctors often refuse to participate. Nevertheless, the deaths by abortion have numbered in the millions since the law was liberalized in 1978. 

“We said we can’t go on like this,” Nunziante said about the motivation to start the march. “Italians are used to the law, saying nothing against it. We had to do something against it; the law can’t be accepted.”

The momentum for the march came from a small group of pro-life Italians who participated every year in the March for Life in Washington DC. Organizers of the Rome march were also inspired by a speech given in January 2011 to the US bishops by Pope Benedict XVI, who said that Catholics have a duty to make themselves heard again in the public square. 

“We can’t leave the public square to our enemies,” Nunziante said, “to those who are opposed to Natural Law and natural values.”

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“They go out into the streets and the public square, so we have to too. To say a clear word against the current law and for a culture of life.”

To date, said Nunziante, the pro-life movement in Italy has worked to help women in crisis pregnancies, but have not focused on changing the law. “The problem is there hasn’t been a public debate on abortion since the law was passed in 1978.”  

“For many years, that has been the main difference [in the pro-life movement] with the US. In the US, they had the March for Life starting in the same year as the law. This is the reason why there can be 500,000 in DC and many young people. There is a culture of life that has been cultivated along the years.” 

“In Italy, this has yet to be the case. Of course we have the Movimento per la Vita, that helps women in distress, but we have never had a strong public debate on abortion.” 

Nunziante added that this year’s march will likely have an immediate impact on the political life of the country. Two weeks after the march, Gianni Alemanno, Rome’s incumbent mayor, will be facing a campaign against the far left Dr. Ignazio Marino of the Democratic party. Marino supports abortion, embryo research and euthanasia. Nunziante said that Alemanno will be announcing his support of the Marcia per la Vita, placing himself as the pro-life candidate. 

The explosive growth of the Italian Marcia per la Vita has been a surprise, even for organizers. The first was held in Desenzano, a small, out-of-the-way resort town in the Italian lake district. 

Nunziante said they held it there because that was the home location of several of the lay and religious organizations who had been involved in the effort to revive the issue. At the march in Desenzano, she said, “We hoped that Italians would think it important enough to participate, and in fact they did.” 

“For the first march it was quite a success,” she said, with a thousand people participating. It attracted Catholics and non-Catholics as well as atheist, Orthodox, and Protestant groups. 

“We were very encouraged. If people are willing to come to Desenzano, which is not easy to get to, and they were really enthusiastic about the march, we said next time we would like to move to Rome. 

“As in all other countries around the world, it’s always in the capital.” 

Asked about the media’s response to the large march last year, she said that unlike the US situation, there was a lot of coverage by the major papers like La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera. 

“What we had last year, the first year in Rome, there has been a debate in the newspapers. Of course attacking us, saying it’s only the far right who attended.” 

This year, she said that it is likely the Italian media will follow the lead of the English language press and instigate a media blackout. However, the Vatican’s television service, which is widely broadcast and followed in Italy, will be covering the event. 

* See the official website for the Rome March for Life.

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