Cardinal Ruini on Italy's Failed Referendum

Church Had Duty to Speak Out, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2005 ( Cardinal Camillo Ruini, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, says that the failure of the national referendum on experimentation with human embryos is a victory for life.

Only about one-quarter of Italians went to the polls on Sunday and Monday to vote on the referendum. Under Italian law, more than half of the eligible voters must participate, for a referendum to be valid.

Cardinal Ruini had suggested that voters abstain from the polls as a double «no» to the referendum’s proposal and the use of a popular consultation to decide questions relating to life. The cardinal spoke with Vatican Radio about the referendum.

Q: What is the reason for such high abstention?

Cardinal Ruini: I explain it with the maturity of the Italian people, who refused to pronounce themselves on these technical and complex questions, who love life and who mistrust a science that attempts to manipulate life.

Q: Some have tried to create opposition among the laity, in particular between nonbelievers and Catholics. Did they fail in this objective?

Cardinal Ruini: Indeed. On one hand, it’s true, the Catholic world has been more unified than ever; has demonstrated that it has thoroughly understood the reasons why it was necessary to follow this line. On the other hand, many lay people, including some highly representative at the cultural, social and political level, have fully shared and promoted with great courage the line of defense of the value of man as such.

Q: Some say that the Church has attacked the secularity of the state.

Cardinal Ruini: This is something totally mistaken. If by secularity of the state one understands that the Church cannot have a public expression, then it is not about secularity, but it is about a secularism that harms the state even before it does the Church.

If, on the contrary, one understands by secularity the freedom of each one and the distinction of tasks, this secularity has not been affected at all.

The Church, in a matter of the greatest human and moral importance, had the duty to express with clarity of voice, a voice that has been heard and shared by very many citizens, based on their personal conscience.

Q: In a word, has Italian popular Catholicism won?

Cardinal Ruini: I don’t like the expression «has won.» Italian popular Catholicism has given an optimal testimony.

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