Wednesday, March 14, 2007

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday set out “nonnegotiable values” as he urged Catholic lawmakers to oppose laws favoring divorce, abortion, homosexual “marriage” and euthanasia.

In a long-awaited text, the pope exhorted “Catholic politicians and legislators … to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature.”

“These values are not negotiable,” he wrote, listing “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death [and] the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman.”

Benedict’s first such apostolic exhortation dashed any hope for a relaxation of the requirement of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests, and comes as draft legislation before Italy’s parliament proposes to give legal status to unmarried couples, including homosexuals.

The document, which is second in importance only to an encyclical and reflects the conclusions of an October 2005 synod of bishops, also comes as efforts to break the taboo against euthanasia are spreading across Europe.

The Vatican and the pope himself have spoken out repeatedly against Italy’s draft law on civil unions, drawing accusations of interference from the Italian left that is pushing the measure in the mainly Catholic country.

Franco Grillini, a homosexual lawmaker of Italy’s Democrats of the Left party, immediately criticized the document, scoffing at the “pope’s pretension to being the depositary of the absolute truth.”

But Domenico di Virgilio of the conservative Forza Italia party said: “Today’s appeal by the holy father … is not interference but profound concern for the future of our society.”

In the document, Benedict also says that celibacy “remains obligatory” for Roman Catholic priests even as the church faces ever-shrinking numbers of men joining the priesthood.

“I reaffirm the beauty and importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God,” the text reads, adding: “I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition.”

The 79-year-old pontiff also reaffirmed that Catholics who divorce and remarry are barred from taking Communion, unless they “commit to living their relationship … as friends, as brother and sister.”

Benedict also said in the document that he would like Gregorian chant to make a comeback, Reuters news agency reported.

He said the Catholic faithful should learn more of the chanting traditionally sung in Latin by choirs of monks since the Middle Ages.

“The better-known prayers of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung,” he said.

He lamented that Latin, the church’s official language, was disappearing and said he wanted future priests to study Latin.

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