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Italian bishops' leader reaffirms opposition to civil-union proposal

January 27, 2016

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa spoke out strongly in support of natural marriage in his address to a meeting of the Italian episcopal conference.

The cardinal’s remarks were clearly prompted by the current debate in Italy over a move to recognize same-sex civil unions. In the past the Italian bishops have been outspoken in their opposition to similar legislation. But this year some confusion has arisen over perceived differences between the bishops’ stands and those of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Bagnasco, the president of the bishops’ conference, said that the family “does not exist for society or the state, but the state exists for the family.”

Cardinal Bagnasco has been consistent in his public opposition to civil unions. But Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of the Italian bishops’ conference, has avoided direct statements on the issue. Because Bishop Galantino was hand-picked by Pope Francis, there has been a widespread belief that his cautious approach reflection the preferences of the Pontiff. That belief was strengthened when the Pope himself declined to offer public comment on the proposed Italian legislation.

The perception of a split within the Italian bishops’ conference became even more widespread earlier this month, when Pope Francis cancelled a scheduled meeting with Cardinal Bagnasco, shortly after the cardinal had issued another strong statement on the civil-union proposal. (“No other form of cohabitation, however respectable, may in any way overshadow or weaken the centrality of the family, either on a sociological or an educational level,” the cardinal said.) Vatican-watchers said that the Pope had cancelled the meeting to show his disapproval.

Still more recently, however, in a January 22 address to the tribunal of the Roman Rota, Pope Francis himself said that “there can be no confusion between the family willed by God and any other type of union.”


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