Florence, Italy, May 16, 2014 / 01:04 am
An Italian bishop's comment that appeared to denigrate pro-life advocates who pray at abortion clinics drew criticism from a pro-life leader in the U.K., who said their witness helps save lives.
Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all'Jonio, who is also secretary-general of the Italian bishops' conference, told the Florentine newspaper La Nazione May 12 that "I don't identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work."
The remark drew a response from John Smeaton, director of the U.K.-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.
"I thought I would let you know that I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless," he said in an open letter to the bishop posted to Smeaton's blog May 13.
The pro-life leader noted that he constantly receives messages from a pro-life group that stands and prays outside of a west London abortion clinic. These messages recount the stories of young women who "seeing the people outside the abortion clinics praying, change their minds and keep their baby."
Smeaton also questioned Bishop Galantino's statement that Catholics in the past "have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia."
The pro-life leader replied: "It's probably fair to say that tens of thousands of unborn children, each one made in the image and likeness of God, are killed every day throughout the world."
"Your Excellency, if it were Catholic priests or Jews who were being killed, or threatened with being killed, by national laws in Britain or in other parts of the world – would we expect, any day of the week, ever to enter a Catholic Church for Mass without the matter being mentioned, or being prayed about at that Mass?" he said in his letter to Bishop Galantino.
Smeaton suggested that if laws allowed Catholic priests or Jews to be killed, the bishop would probably say "We can never do enough to denounce this grotesque evil."
Smeaton, who voiced hope that the bishop's comment had been misreported, asked Bishop Galantino to reconsider his reported position.
Bishop Galantino has also been criticized for his statement, in the same interview, that "my hope for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality."
The Italian bishops' conference will hold its annual assembly May 19-23. Pope Francis will for the first time give its inaugural address.
Pope Francis has taken a multi-faceted approach to abortion. He has stressed that it must be discussed in the proper context of the Christian faith.
At the same time, he has also forcefully denounced abortion as an aspect of a "throwaway culture."
Every child "unjustly condemned to be aborted" has "the face of Jesus Christ," he told a group of doctors at the Vatican in September 2013.