40,000 people take part in Italy's March for Life
Tens of thousands of people took part in Italy's national March for Life in Rome on Saturday.
About 40,000 people participated in the "Choose Life" rally on May 21, the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica reported.
"We are here to reaffirm the right of children to come into the world, they do not get to ask for it," Father Andres Bonello told Adnkronos, an Italian news agency.
"We do it in a peaceful way, singing and dancing together with many young people," said the Argentine priest who is a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
Participants in the pro-life rally marched from Rome's Piazza della Repubblica to the public square by the St. John Lateran Archbasilica.
Massimo Gandolfini, a medical doctor and president of the Let's Defend Our Children association, said that there was a "silent majority of Italians" concerned about euthanasia of the elderly, Europe's demographic winter, and the abortion of 100,000 children in Italy each year.
"With the 'Choose Life' rally we want to reaffirm that life is the first fundamental right of every human being, whose inviolable respect is the precondition for a free, just and peaceful society, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states," said Gandolfini, one of the rally's organizers.
"In particular, the defense of 'fragile' life -- from conception and in the unfolding process until natural death -- is the cornerstone of a people's civilization, which knows its lowest point when it induces the elderly, the sick and the depressed to choose suicide."
Abortion in Italy
In Italy, abortion is legal for any reason within the first 90 days (almost 13 weeks) of pregnancy, and afterward for certain reasons with the referral of a physician.
The practice was legalized in 1978, despite opposition from Pope Paul VI, who encouraged doctors to exercise conscientious objection.
The RU486 abortion drug was legalized in Italy in 2009, and in 2010 standards were set which require women to be hospitalized for three days during its administration.
It cannot be prescribed beyond the seventh week of pregnancy.
Pope Francis praises the pro-life rally
Pope Francis greeted participants in Italy's pro-life rally during his Regina Coeli address in St. Peter's Square on May 22, the day after the march.
"I thank you for your dedication in promoting life and defending conscientious objection, which there are often attempts to limit," the pope said.
"Sadly," the pope continued, "in these last years, there has been a change in the common mentality, and today we are more and more led to think that life is a good at our complete disposal, that we can choose to manipulate, to give birth or take life as we please, as if it were the exclusive consequence of individual choice."
"Let us remember that life is a gift from God," Pope Francis said. "It is always sacred and inviolable, and we cannot silence the voice of conscience."