05/12/2007, 00.00
ITALY
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Family Day: more than a million people celebrate, put pressure on politicians

by Bernardo Cervellera
Children, young people, parents and grandmothers invaded Rome’s San Giovanni Square and its nearby streets, singing and dancing their love for the natural family. Testimonials, songs and poetry (by Povia) filled the air. Organisers called on political leaders to provide real support to families and reform the welfare system.

Rome (AsiaNews) – More than a people (1.5 million according to organisers) took part in a rally called Più Familia (More Family) that was organised by 450 associations to stress the value of the family defined as the union between man and 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 the radical left, gay groups, and much of the media which holds radical and liberal views, who support a draft bill that would officially recognise common law and homosexual couples along with the traditional type of family.

A sense of peace, celebration and happiness pervaded the square, not any hatred or homophobia. Children danced, people carried balloons and colourful umbrellas amidst a vast sea of baby carriages surrounded by grandmothers, young couples soon to tie the knot and those who just did or did it 30 or 40 years ago on this same day, on this Family Day.

One after the other, speakers address the crowd, some from families with children, other without; young not yet married couples with a job; married couples helping drug addicts, the elderly or the sick.

“The family is one of the main organisers of the rally,” said Eugenia Roccella, one of the event’s main organisers. “It 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.”

Interspersed among the many testimonials, which people listened to in silence and which ended to their sound of applause, were songs for children and grown-ups alike. The performance by Povia, the singer who won the San Remo Music Festival, Italy’s foremost singing competition, was one of the highlights. Everyone joined in to sing along a tune dedicated to Family day. In a poetic and somewhat prophetic style, he 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 “favouring adoptions by heterosexual couples who too often get a child only after years of hard struggle . . . . Because Gentlemen, this is what is real. Children must have a mother and a father.” He ended amidst 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 (Renewing the Spirit), Comunità neocatecumenali (neocathecumenal communities), 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 year ago featuring the late John Paul II was screened at the beginning of the rally. Touching upon issues that are still very current today, the Polish Pope called upon everyone to defend the institution of the family against attacks from the culture of death, which is an anti-family culture.

Then it was time for the other major organiser of the event to speak, trade union leader Savino Pezzotta. In his intervention he addressed politicians directly. “We have the right to know if those who govern us are driving towards an anthropological model centred only on the autonomy of the individual, on the utilitarian value of temporary emotions or do 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.”

For this to happen, he said children’s clinics, kindergartens, schools and training centres should be built. Similarly, welfare and other public policies should focus on the needs of families through income support, tax reform, fair rents, and help for families who take charge of those who are disabled or terminally ill.

Mr Pezzotta also noted that today’s rally was part of “a broader European popular movement” that organised similar events in Belgium, Portugal, Spain and France.

At the end, he greeted Benedict XVI, who is in Brazil, and Mgr Angelo Bagnasco, chairman of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, who was recently the object of threats and insults for his defence of the natural family.

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