Rome, Italy, May 20, 2017 / 11:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- 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.

“It is the seventh edition of the March and as in the past years, we expect thousands of people to come and create a joyful atmosphere,” Alessandro Elia, one of the event’s organizers, told CNA ahead of Saturday’s event. “In fact, we are against abortion because we love life and we love the family, a natural institution which is fundamental for every human society.”

This year was Rome’s sixth — and Italy’s seventh — annual March for Life. The event’s tagline was “For life without compromise.” Pope Francis gave his apostolic blessing to participants in the pro-life event. In a written message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis voiced his hope that the March for Life would promote the dignity of human life in Italy.

More than 6 million babies have been aborted in Italy since abortion on demand was legalized in the country in 1978.  Since that time, “it seems like being contrary to abortion is not permitted,” Elia said.  “Many Catholics and non-Catholics are very determined to end abortion and the March for Life is an annual occasion to prove that we exist and that our requests need to be taken into account by the civil and political world.”

First held in Rome on Mother's Day in 2012 — previously held in another part of the country on one other occasion — the annual event was modeled after the U.S. March for Life held each year in Washington D.C. Over the past four years, thousands of people have traveled from around the world to take part.

This year's March for Life began its peaceful demonstration at the Piazza della Repubblica, marching down Via Cavour, a major thoroughfare of the city, to arrive at the Piazza della Madonna di Loreto, located next to the busy Piazza Venezia of the well-known Altare della Patria national monument. Though open to people of all faiths, the night before the March Eucharistic Adoration was held at the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to pray for the reparation of the crime of abortion. Though there were heavy rain showers off-and-on the morning and early afternoon of the day of the March, by the time it began in the afternoon blue skies and sunshine prevailed.

Euthanasia is a current pro-life issue in Italy at the moment, as the Italian Chamber has voted in favor of a bill that would effectively force doctors to follow directives from patients or their trustees — no matter made how many years earlier — to even include the withholding of food and water. Next the bill to be passed by the Italian Senate.

The law, on advanced healthcare directives (in Italian called DAT), “requires the doctor to be bound by an anticipated declaration of a patient who requests the suspension of nutrition and hydration,” Elia explained. In this case, he said, the so-called “‘right to die’ for the patient equals the duty to kill for the doctor. This is unacceptable.” Besides forcing doctors to participate in what is essentially a form of assisted suicide, “the death of patients by starvation and dehydration is extremely cruel,” he said.