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
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31 May 2005