Italy's Catholic Church Head Backs Abortion Moratorium

The head of Italy's Catholic Church said he would support a moratorium on abortion, giving an extra boost to the proposal that has gained much support in recent days.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Italy (CBCI) told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the proposal for a moratorium on abortion was "a praiseworthy choice."

"It (the moratorium) is laudable because it constitutes a strong and clear reminder for states on the protection and promotion of human life," he said, according to Agence-France Press.

He also said a 1978 law on abortion should be revised because of "technological and scientific progress" over the last 30 years.

The moratorium was originally proposed as a means of encouraging a broader public discussion about the morality of abortion and was first suggested by Giuliano Ferrea, the editor of Italian national newspaper Il Foglio. With the recent call made by Bagnasco's predecessor, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, for the restriction of abortion, the issue has now become more heated in the country.

According to daily newspaper Il Giornale, five members of parliament from the National Alliance party have also thrown their support behind the moratorium.

The lawmakers said that a "political party must not and can not remain indifferent" in the face of a critical moral debate.

Also, a leader of the country's Christian Democratic Party, Rocco Buttiglione, has endorsed the proposal.

Buttiglione, an active Catholic philosopher and biographer of Pope John Paul II, was the focal point of a major political controversy in 2004, when his nomination for a seat on the European Council was blocked because of his statements indicating a moral opposition to homosexuality.

Buttiglione said that the opposition was tantamount to an "anti-Christian inquisition."

Last month, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was proposed by Italy and backed by 87 other countries.

Italy's health minister, Livia Turco, however, has responded negatively to the proposal for a moratorium on abortions.

"Yes, I am in favor of public debate," Turco told the daily La Stampa. "But the abortion law must not be modified.

"The number of abortions has fallen by 45 percent since 1982 and back-alley abortions have disappeared," he added.

However, the proposal seems to be gaining momentum. Parliamentarian Sandro Bondi of the Forza Italia party announced plans to introduce legislation supporting the proposal.

Meanwhile, Giuliano, the first advocate of the moratorium, has now reportedly sought support from Rome's Mayor, Walter Veltroni, a leader of the Democratic party. Veltroni has not yet made a public comment on the issue, according to Catholic World News.

Abortion was made legal in Italy in 1978, however, abortion debates resurface regularly in an overwhelmingly Catholic country.