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Mayor challenges pope during Genoa visit

Thanks to Peter Waine for the link.

Mayor challenges pope during Genoa visit
By Philip Pullella

GENOA, Italy, May 18 (Reuters) - The pro-abortion mayor of this large northwestern port city suggested to Pope Benedict in a public address on Sunday that the Church could not impose its views on the personal choices of citizens in a lay state.

Speaking during a visit by the pope to a children's hospital, Mayor Marta Vincenzi told him a democratic state had to "work for the common good so that citizens can orient their lifestyles without impositions or inappropriate limitations".

Earlier in the week, the Pope had condemned Italy's abortion law, while Vincenzi, a leftist, had attended a pro-abortion rights demonstration in Genoa, one of Italy's biggest cities.

The election of the new right-wing government led by Silvio Berlusconi has brought abortion, legalised in Italy 30 years ago, to the forefront again.

In his inaugural speech last week, Berlusconi included a promise to combat "the causes of abortion" and invoked "the help of God".Conservative Catholics are hoping his government will go further and usher in changes to restrict abortion.

Last Monday, the pope told Italy's pro-life movement that three decades of legalised abortion in Italy had devalued human life and left a wound on society.

Benedict's words drew criticism from the centre left, which largely supports the 1978 legislation allowing abortion on demand in the first 90 days of pregnancy and until the 24th week if the mother's life is at risk or if the foetus is malformed.

Vincenzi told the pope the challenge in governing was to "restate principles while at the same time avoiding transforming ethics into a political battlefield".

Critics of the existing law, mostly in the centre right, say abortion has replaced contraception and rules should be tightened in light of medical advances allowing the survival of some foetuses born before 24 weeks.

The day before the pope arrived in Genoa, a bustling port and industrial city with a host of social problems, Vincenzi, a former member of Italy's former communist party, attended a sit-in by women who want the law to stay as it is.

She was quoted in a national newspaper on Sunday as saying she attended the demonstration to show her solidarity with "the battle to defend the (abortion) law". (Editing by Philippa Fletcher)



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