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Pope urges Italy
to steer away from same-sex marriage

Pope urges Italy
to steer away from same-sex marriage

Pope Benedict XVI urged Italians to remain faithful to their Christian traditions, saying they can be examples to the world and enable dialogue with other cultures that are deeply religious. In an hour-long speech to Italian bishops and lay leaders in Verona, Benedict warned that a secular shift in the West had led to threats to traditional families, including "other forms of unions," a reference to same-sex marriage. But overall, he praised the health of the Catholic Church in Italy, saying "the Christian traditions are often deeply rooted and continue to produce fruit." The pope was addressing a national church convention in the northern Italian city on Thursday. Benedict received a standing ovation from the audience of several hundred at the Verona fairgrounds. Later Thursday he celebrated an open-air Mass in a soccer stadium before an estimated 50,000 people, including Premier Romano Prodi and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, the opposition leader. Prodi was heckled from the stands by a small number of participants as he left the stadium. Some Catholics resent the liberal positions of Prodi, a Catholic who leads a center-left coalition. Prodi's coalition includes communist parties and radicals, who often denounce what they consider the church's interference in Italian affairs. But after an audience with Benedict last week, Prodi said "there aren't any controversies" between the Vatican and Italy. Prodi's electoral platform included a pledge to give some legal status to unmarried couples, but it stopped short of endorsing same-sex marriage, which the Vatican firmly opposes. (Victor L. Simpson, AP)

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