A group of Chilean pro-life activists held a protest in the middle of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Friday, shortly after Pope Francis received Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, whose government seeks to introduce abortion legislation in Chile, where the practice is illegal.
The protesters lay down in Saint Peter’s Square, with their prostrate bodies forming the shape of a large white cross.
The demonstration was led by the group “Mujeres de Blanco” (Women in White), whose stated goals of “life, love and peace” also includes resistance to legalized abortion.
In Chile, the national Health Commission is debating the decriminalization of abortion in these days, and the Women in White came to Rome to testify that “far from being a choice, abortion is only the death of the child and the mother’s heart.”
The Women in White are protesting a bill advanced by the Bachelet government that they claim would not only decriminalize abortion, but would also force women to face unwanted pregnancies alone, freeing the fathers of their children from all responsibility for their actions and its fruit.
María Paz Vial, the coordinator of Women in White, said that the reason for their protest was to draw attention to the dangers of abortion, both for unborn children and their mothers.
“Many Chileans have already experienced the grueling and harrowing reality of abortion in Europe and do not want that for Chile,” she said. “They have seen shattered women, with their lives torn apart by abortion. These Chileans in Saint Peter’s Square today do not want that pain to their country and cry out against this unjust and brutal law.”
“Many of the Women in White have had abortions and we know from experience that abortion does not only kill the child, but also kills the heart of the mother,” she said.
Vial said that the Pope himself had invited the faithful to speak their minds and “make trouble” when necessary.
“We have welcomed the Pope’s invitation to go out to make trouble,” she said. “We come to Saint Peter’s to make a mess, a wonderful mess, as an act of love and a plea for mercy,” she said.
On Friday morning, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet met with Pope Francis for 47 minutes in the private library of the Apostolic Palace.
After the meeting with the Pope, the Chilean leader characterized the encounter as “very pleasant” and said that she was grateful for the “warm welcome” that gave her the chance “to reflect on his work as a shepherd.”
Bachelet said they had addressed issues relating to the “crisis of confidence and representativeness” in politics, adding that Francis had not yet defined the date for his visit to Chile, but that it “would probably be in 2016.”
Bachelet’s characterization of the meeting stood in stark contrast with the report issued by the Vatican, which said that the two leaders spoke of “issues of common concern,” with “safeguarding human life” in the first place, which was understood by all to refer to the abortion matter.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.