May 14, 2010, page A6
Pope Decries Gay Marriage in Portugal Visit
By RACHEL DONADIO
FÁTIMA, Portugal Pope Benedict XVI used a famous Portuguese shrine to the Virgin Mary on Thursday as a stage to denounce abortion and gay marriage, just days before Portugal is expected to join five European countries that have legalized same-sex weddings.
Pope Benedict XVI greeted Portugal’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva, left, at the end of a mass at the Catholic shrine of Fatima in central Portugal on Thursday (Paulo Cunha)
In a speech here to Catholic social service groups, Benedict called for initiatives aimed at protecting “the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
He also said he expressed his “deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socioeconomic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion.”
The audience in a chapel at the shrine gave the pope a standing ovation.
The pope’s remarks came on the third day of a four-day visit aimed at shoring up Christian belief in increasingly secular Europe, although it has been somewhat eclipsed by the sexual-abuse scandal confronting the Vatican in recent weeks. Benedict also has used the visit to signal a more forceful tone in confronting the abuse, which he has called a “sin inside the church.”
Although it is 90 percent Catholic, Portugal has seen a notable shift away from Catholic teaching in recent years. The country legalized abortion in 2008 and its Parliament recently approved a bill permitting same-sex marriage. President Aníbal Cavaco Silva is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
The church has opposed the measure, but Portuguese society appears to be largely supportive.
Portugal would be the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden. France and Denmark recognize same-sex unions, which convey many but not all of the rights enjoyed by married couples.
Throughout his five-year-old papacy, Benedict has endeavored to shape a new identity for the church as a “creative minority” in an increasingly secular Europe. On Thursday, he denounced “the pressure exerted by the prevailing culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain.”
The pope also told the social service groups to find alternatives to state financing so they would not be subject to legislation at odds with Catholic teaching, urging them to “ensure that Christian charitable activity is granted autonomy and independence from politics and ideologies, even while cooperating with state agencies in the pursuit of common goals.”
Addressing bishops later on Thursday, Benedict called for “authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ” in “those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life.”
He added that “in such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration.”
Earlier on Thursday, Benedict celebrated Mass before an estimated half a million faithful on the anniversary of the day three peasant children are said to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary here in 1917.
Tradition has it that the Virgin revealed three secrets to the children: One was interpreted as predicting the end of World War I and the start of World War II, the second to have predicted the rise and fall of communism, which gave Fátima an anti-communist allure during the cold war.
Pope John Paul II credited the Virgin of Fátima with saving him from an assassination attempt in 1981. In 2000, the Vatican revealed the third secret of Fátima, which it said prefigured the attempt.
Since arriving in Portugal on Tuesday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the beatification of two of the peasant children, Benedict has sought to broaden the significance of the message of Fátima to help the church overcome its difficulties in the sexual-abuse scandal.]
London ~ May 14, 2010
Gay marriage and abortion are 'insidious challenge to society' says Pope
Richard Owen, Fatima and Ruth Gledhill
The Pope stopped on his way through the crowds before celebrating mass at the Fatima sanctuary (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday condemned gay marriage and abortion as “among the most insidious and dangerous challenges” to society.
Speaking on a visit to Portugal, which is preparing to legalise same-sex partnerships, the Pontiff also criticised Catholics who are ashamed of their faith and too willing to “lend a hand to secularism.”
The gay marriage legislation was recently passed by the Portuguese parliament and is due to be signed into law next week by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a conservative Catholic. Ninety per cent of Portuguese define themselves as Catholic but Portuguese society is increasingly secular, with well under a third saying they attend mass regularly.
The Pope was speaking after a packed open air mass at the Marian shrine at Fatima, the Portuguese Lourdes, 120 kilometres north of Lisbon. The mass was attended by half a million people.
Meeting Catholic charity workers at the shrine, the Pope called for “defence of life” and “indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman” in response to what he described as the dangerous threats of gay marriage and abortion. He offered his thanks to those who helped people “wounded by the drama of abortion”.
His words will be studied in Britain where Catholics prepare for their own visit by the Pope in September. In the pre-election television debates, David Cameron said he disagreed with the Pope’s teaching on homosexuality. The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg indicated he agreed with Mr Cameron.
The Pope’s condemnation of gay marriage was itself condemned by secularists and gay rights campaigners. Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, accused Benedict of trying to interfere with the country’s democratic will. “If the President of Portugal approves the law on gay marriage – and there is every indication that she will – it will represent a slap in the face for the Pope’s authority.”
Tony Green, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which will be debating gay marriage and civil partnership at its annual conference in London tomorrow, said: "It is one thing to oppose gay marriage from religious convictions and another to make such a claim about it when you look at issues such as teenage pregnancy, sexual disease, drug abuse, world poverty and war. This is an appalling, unfounded and unjust claim. I do not really see on what basis he can say gay marriage is among the most dangerous challenges to society. It ignores real social evils the Church and others should be addressing with far greater urgency."
Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights group Outrage, added: "The Pope is fast losing all his sense of moral priorities. Compared to war, poverty and racism, gay marriage is a minor issue. It is not worthy of the Pope's moral outrage. In a world filled with hate and violence, he should be encouraging love and commitment, not denouncing it."
The mass at the shrine at Fatima marked the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three shepherd children reported seeing visions of the Virgin Mary as the sun “spun” in the sky.
They claimed the Madonna confided to them three secrets foretelling the Second World War, the conversion of Russia to Christianity and the attempt on the life of John Paul II in 1981.
John Paul believed the Virgin Mary helped save him from the attempted assassination, which took place on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
In his homily at the shrine, Pope Benedict, dressed in white and gold vestments and sounding hoarse, said “We delude ourselves if we think that the prophetic mission of Fatima has come to an end”.