An Italian bishop at the March for Life in Rome said that Catholics have a responsibility to stand up for the sacredness of human life in a culture reeling from the “havoc that crimes against life cause within human society.”
“We must not be afraid to confront a culture of rampant death and to proclaim the treasures of our faith and sound reason,” Bishop Antonio Suetta told participants in the 10th annual “Marcia Per La Vita” via video link.
Suetta, the 58-year-old bishop of Ventimiglia-San Remo in northern Italy, is the first active Italian bishop to give a live address to Italy’s March for Life. He sent a recorded message to the event in 2019.
He encouraged the participants who convened near the Roman Forum and Colosseum to “support and promote life in all possible ways when it is most fragile and defenseless.”
“I am here … to bear witness to the commitment of the Church, of believers and of so many people of sound conscience to promote, serve and protect human life from its beginning to its natural end, in all its variety, and especially when life is most vulnerable and suffering,” he said.
The Italian bishop quoted a homily from St. John Paul II’s 1979 visit to Washington, D.C.: “We will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.”
“When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family.”
“When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary, conditional arrangement that can easily be terminated, we will stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond.”
“When the value of the family is threatened because of social and economic pressures, we will stand up and reaffirm that the family is ‘necessary not only for the private good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation, and state.”
Abortion was legalized in Italy on May 22, 1978, with the passing of “law 194.” The law made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.
Since 1978, it is estimated that more than six million children have been aborted in Italy.
Virginia Coda Nunziante started Italy’s March for Life in 2010 after being inspired by attending the U.S. March for Life in Washington D.C.
“Italy was a country of children with large families always and this started to change immediately after the law on abortion,” Coda told EWTN Vaticano.
“Now the data from last year, of 2020, show that we have the lowest birth rate [since] World War II,” she added.
A week ahead of Italy’s March for Life, Pope Francis attended an event in Rome which brought Italian political leaders and company executives together to discuss the problem of Italy’s birth rate, which is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.24.
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In his address at the birth rate event, Pope Francis said that “if families are not at the center of the present, there will be no future; but if families restart, everything restarts.”
Italy currently faces a demographic crisis, as experts predict that the already low European fertility rate will be further affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already hit the Italian economy especially hard.
Bishop Suetta said: “We witness with deep sorrow, but also with understanding, the havoc that crimes against life cause within human society, devastating it and depriving it of hope and a future.”
“In particular, the family which is the cradle of life, the natural place for its growing in strength, as well as for caring for vulnerable life, is constantly and fiercely threatened, its original beauty and vitality are forsaken and manipulated.”
Eduard Habsburg, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See, spoke at the March for Life in Rome, as did Janusz Kotański, Poland’s ambassador to the Holy See.
“It is possible to encourage families to say ‘yes to life.’ The Hungarian government has been working with an active family policy for nine years and we have achieved wonderful results: an increase in marriages by 40%, a decrease in divorces by 25%, and a decrease in abortions by 30%,” Habsburg said.
“What does it take for such a change? The government’s willingness to work for the family. To help families and convey the message that many children are a gift to society, we need to give money in hand, help families economically,” he said.
On the eve of the march, Cardinal Raymond Burke presided over Eucharistic adoration for life in the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.
Addressing the March for Life, Bishop Suetta said: “Let us not forget the effective imagery used by Pope Francis: ‘It is not right to “take out“ a human being, no matter how little, to resolve a problem. That is like hiring a hitman to resolve a problem.’“
“We say this in order that a word of truth may enlighten hearts and consciences and, like good yeast, move people of goodwill, institutions, and scientists to rediscover the due reverence and fidelity to the sacredness of human life.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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Held this year on May 20, Rome’s seventh annual March for Life was a chance for pro-life advocates of any faith to share their convictions about the sanctity of life and how it is founded in a love of life and family.