Pope enters Italian pre-election abortion debate
Pope Benedict warmly praised pro-life activists yesterday, as the Italian government was considering deploying them into abortion advice centres to try to dissuade women from terminating pregnancies.
Reuters reports that the Holy Father's comments came amidst a controversy in Italy over abortion that has led to accusations the Church was trying to interfere in domestic politics.
Speaking at the end of his weekly general audience to tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father hailed the work of the organisation Movement for Life.
He lauded the group for its "courage" in opposing abortion, which the Church considers murder. "You are writing pages of hope for the future of humanity," he told the group.
Like Australia, Italy has for weeks been caught up in a national debate over whether to allow the use of an abortion pill, known as RU-486, which blocks the action of the hormone progesterone, needed to sustain a pregnancy.
While he did not mention RU-486, also known as Mifepristone, the timing of the pope's words were politically significant.
Italian Church leaders fear that wider use of the abortion pill, currently in use in about 30 countries, will make abortion more appealing to women than traditional, invasive surgery.
Italy goes to the polls in April and the Church's position on a host of issues could play a significant role in the result.
The Italian bishops conference and the Vatican newspaper have already jumped into the fray over the pill, with the paper condemning it as "science at the service of death".
Pope enters Italy pre-electoral abortion debate (Reuters 16/11/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Benedict XVI General Audience - text (16/11/05)
The Lord is transcendent, but he remains near us (Vatican Information Service 16/11/05)
Being Christian means thanking God for great gifts, pope says (Catholic News Service 16/11/05)
Through periods of trial and liberation, God is always with His people, says Pope (Catholic News Agency 16/11/05)
Pope calls for more adequate formation of priests (The Universe 16/11/05)
Pope Benedict XVI: Exodus (Vatican Radio English Features 16/11/05, audio - requires Real Player)
Pope's General Audience (Vatican Radio English Features 16/11/05, audio - requires Real Player)
Pope Calls for More Adequate Formation of Priests (Zenit 15/11/05)
On the Israeli President's Upcoming Visit to Pope (Zenit 15/11/05)
17 Nov 2005