Pope backs Italian embryo boycott

Pope Benedict XVI has given his backing to calls for a boycott of next month's referendum that will ask Italians to lift restrictions on embryo research, artificial insemination, and egg and sperm donation.

The BBC reports that the Pope did not explicitly call for a boycott of the vote, which needs a 50% turnout to remain valid.

But he told a conference of Italian bishops, which had urged a boycott: "I am close to you in word and prayer."

The bishops have taken a high profile campaigning role ahead of the vote. The Pope told them that Italians must defend "the sacredness of human life and the promotion of the role of the family in society".

The fertility debate has become Italy's most divisive social issue in decades. Debates over divorce and abortion polarised popular opinion in Italy during the 1970s.

Pope Benedict has already vowed to maintain a tough line on moral issues such as euthanasia and abortion. Italy's current laws ban embryo research and restrict the numbers of eggs that can be fertilised during each attempt at insemination. Egg and sperm donation is also banned, while fertilised eggs are currently afforded full rights under Italian law.

Opponents of the laws, passed only last year, forced a referendum after collecting almost four million signatures of protest.

The head of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, has consistently taken a leading role in the campaign for a boycott, backing the current laws despite saying they "do not correspond to the ethics of the Church".

Pope backs Italy embryo boycott (BBC 30/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Conferenza Episcopale Italiana

Gunman's Family Seeks Audience with New Pontiff (The Scotsman 27/5/05)
Pope Backs Bishops in Fertility Treatment Row (The Scotsman 30/5/05)
Pope supports assisted fertility limits (Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencier 30/5/05)
Pope's "smaller church" idea is debated (The Seattle Times/New York Times 29/5/05)
Pope enters fray on Italian fertility debate (Reuters 30/5/05)
Pope: Ecumenism, a "fundamental commitment", which "calls for concrete gestures" (AsiaNews.it 30/5/05)
The Pope meets gay governor on first road trip (Belfast Telegraph 30/5/05)
Pope Benedict says Christians need Eucharist, Sundays to cope with daily challenges (Catholic News Agency 30/5/05)
Pope says working to heal rift with Christians is "fundamental" commitment (Catholic News Agency 30/5/05)
The Promise of Benedict XVI (Christianity Today June 2005)
Pope Benedict's First Papal Visit Highlights Christian Unity with Orthodox Church (Christian Today 30/5/05)
Eucharist calls for Christian unity, Pope says (Catholic World News 30/5/05)
In Bari, Pope Benedict reaffirms pledge to seek Christian unity (Ecumenical News International 30/5/05)
Benedict Reaches Out to Orthodox Church (The Herald-Sun Durham North Carolina/Associated Press 30/5/05)
Pope extends hand of peace to Orthodox church (Sydney Morning Herald 31/5/05)
Pope says Balkan Christianity can help EU (The Tablet 28/5/05)
Pope Wants to Heal Catholic-Orthodox Rift During his Papacy (Voice of America 29/5/05)
Modern World Is in a Wilderness, Says Benedict XVI (Zenit 29/5/05)
Pope Recalls Martyrs Who Died for Sunday Mass (Zenit 29/5/05)
Concrete Gestures Achieve Unity, Says Pope (Zenit 29/5/05)
Marriage Is Foundational and "Irreplaceable," Says Pope (Zenit 29/5/05)
Nuns in Netherlands Rejoiced With New Pope (Zenit 29/5/05)
Papal Homily at Italian Eucharistic Congress (Zenit 29/5/05)

31 May 2005