In the last country in Europe not to legalize same-sex marriage, ordinary Italians are resisting pressure to recognize homosexual unions. But why the silence from the Vatican?
More than a million people (1.5 million according to organizers) took part in a rally called Più Familia (More Family) that was organized by 450 associations to stress the value of the family defined as the union between one man and one woman, open to procreation, serving as the hub of social, cultural, economic and political life. They all came to Rome’s San Giovanni Square, which had never seen so many people, parents with their children, young people and old, those in good health and the disabled. Some families arrived after a day of travel from some of Italy’s islands. Many were Catholics. Some were Muslims. Others were Jews.
The event, which was supported by the Catholic Church in particular, was opposed by Italy’s radical left, gay groups, and much of the media which holds radical and liberal views. They support a draft bill that would officially recognize common law and homosexual couples along with the traditional type of family.
Eugenia Roccella, one of the event’s main organizers, said, “The family is the primary unit of any welfare state based on the principle of subsidiarity which allows the taking care of the weak, the young, the sick and the old. The family, as stated in our constitution, is based on marriage, on a commitment made before the community. Everything else, common law relationships and love in all its countless ways, however temporary or lasting they may be, are stories of individuals that come under the purview of individual rights.”
The performance by Povia, the singer who won the San Remo Music Festival, Italy’s foremost singing competition, was one of the rally’s highlights. Everyone joined in singing along to a tune dedicated to Family Day. In a poetic and somewhat prophetic speech, Povia slammed the “obscurantism” of the dominant culture, empty and “dressed up,” and called for help for the “traditional family” by “economically supporting young couples to have children and eliminating fears they may have about the future” as well as by “favoring adoptions by heterosexual couples who too often get a child only after years of hard struggle… Because friends, this is what is real. Children must have a mother and a father.”
He ended amid the crowd’s ovation saying that the “children’s rights are more important than those of grown-ups.”
Among the many groups that contributed to the event’s success, many were Church movements like Rinnovamento dello Spirito (Renewal in the Spirit), Comunità neocatecumenali (Neocatechumenal communities), and Comunione e Liberazione (Communion and Liberation), whose leaders explained the value of the natural family, developed and sustained by religion and Christianity.
A video from 20 years ago featuring the late St. John Paul II was screened at the beginning of the rally, in which John Paul called upon everyone to defend the institution of the family against attacks from the “culture of death.”
Then it was time for the other major organizer of the event to speak, trade union leader Savino Pezzotta. He addressed politicians directly: “We have the right to know whether those who govern us are driving towards an anthropological model centered only on the autonomy of the individual, on the utilitarian value of temporary emotions, or whether they intend to strengthen the family and thus emotions whose cornerstone is social responsibility.”
Politicians, he insisted, must institute “laws for that family that protect every human being’s right to life from conception to natural death.” Pezzotta noted that today’s rally was part of “a broader European popular movement” that organized similar events in Belgium, Portugal, Spain and France.
At the end, he greeted Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, who was recently the object of threats and insults in Italy for his defense of the natural family.
The Vatican itself did not issue any formal expression of support for the event.