Pope Backs Abstentions in Vote on Embryo Research

In an Address to Italian Bishops’ Conference

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI supported the position of the Church in Italy, which is calling for voters to abstain from upcoming referendums on human embryo research.

The Pope backed the abstention, given that the research proposals would lead to the discarding of human embryos.

A human being, he insisted, “can never be reduced to a means.”

The Holy Father addressed the issue openly for the first time today when he met with the participants of the general assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference in the synod hall at the Vatican.

Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the episcopal conference, explained that abstention in these referendums, to be held June 12-13, “means a double no.”

The four proposals that Italians must decide by referendum involve canceling:

— restrictions on clinical and experimental research with embryos.

— legal restrictions on artificial insemination, such as the three-embryo limit on those created in vitro.

— the rights of the one conceived so that they are subject to the rights of those already born.

— the ban on heterologous insemination, namely, with the participation of a third person other than the couple.

“With you”

According to Italian law, if 50% of the people eligible to vote do not participate in the referendum, the popular consultation loses its validity.

Applauding the effort with which Italian prelates have opposed the referendums, Benedict XVI said that “precisely with its clarity and concrete spirit, your commitment is a sign of the concern of pastors for every human being, who can never be reduced to a means, but is always an end, as our Lord Jesus Christ teaches in his Gospel, and as human reason itself tells us.”

The Pope added: “I am with you in word and prayer, trusting in the light and grace of the Spirit who acts in consciences and hearts.”

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