A pro-family demonstration drew hundreds of thousands of participants to Rome on Saturday, where the rally gathered those opposed to the introduction of gender ideology in Italian schools and to a bill which would expand the rights of those in civil unions. “We want to bear witness to the beauty of the family,” said Vincenzo and Sara, addressing the June 20 rally. “All of our children have been born of a mother and a father.” The couple have 11 children, and they emphasized that “parents are the ones called in the first place to educate our children, and the school cannot take away that sacred right from us.” The demonstration took place in the piazza in front of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, and drew a crowd whose estimates range from 300,000 to 1 million. Participants came from across Italy, despite short notice — the event having been announced only June 2. Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register also noted that the demonstration “had only tacit support from the Italian bishops’ conference.” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, sent a message of support for the event. It was organized by “Defend our Children” to call for the rejection of a bill in the Italian parliament which would grant same-sex couples in civil unions many of the rights afforded to married couples. More generally, the rally intended to reaffirm parents' right to educate their children, and to oppose gender theory in Italy's schools and parliament. Speakers outlined the key elements of this proposed legislation, and explained how the attendant gender theory has already been introduced in many of the country’s schools. Gender theory or ideology is the notion that one's 'gender' is chosen and need not correspond with one's biological sex. Gianfranco Amato, president of Jurists for Life and one of the organizers, called for an end to gender theory in the schools, calling it a “drift toward totalitarianism that tends to impose by law the dictatorship of a single way of thinking.” Simone Pillon of Family Forum told the crowd, “Today in the square we are all creating a culture, not against persons, but against the ideologies that are destroying the family and are trying to destroy man and woman as its model.” The demonstration included, but was not limited to, Catholics. Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs participated, as well. The imam of the Centocelle Mosque in Rome told participants that “the Muslim community is against this law that is dangerous for the existence of humanity and would pollute the minds of our children.” Kiko Argüello, founder of the Neocatechumenical Way, said that “Europe is sinning by rejecting the Gospel.” He said “the Pope is with us,” pointing out that the week prior the Holy Father warned of “ideological colonization ” when he spoke to hundreds of families in Saint Peter’s Square at the opening of a conference of the Diocese of Rome.
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