by Steven Ertelt
May 10, 2007
Sao Paulo, Brazil (LifeNews.com) — In his first speech in a landmark trip to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion but did not touch on comments he made to the media yesterday about politicians and excommunication or communion.
Previously, he said that pro-abortion elected officials have automatically excommunicated themselves from the Catholic Church because of their position and he said they shouldn’t be able to receive communion.
In Brazil, the abortion message is especially important because the Latin American region is home to more than half of the world’s Catholics and because abortions advocates are trying to legalize abortion both there and elsewhere in the hemisphere.
The pope urged to Catholic bishops there to continue to promote "the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature."
His comments came just hours after a member of the ruling government’s cabinet complained that the Catholic Church is stifling the abortion debate in Brazil.
"If men got pregnant, I’m sure this question would have been resolved a long time ago," Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said, according to an AP report.
He’s pushing for a bill in the Brazilian Congress to legalize abortions.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met the pontiff at the airport to welcome him to the nation, but he said in a radio address earlier int he week that he thinks the federal government should revisit the issue of abortion, even though he claims to be personally opposed to it.
During his flight from Rome to Brazil, the pope made his comments on excommunication and communion.
The pontiff was asked about the topics in reference to a threat from the Catholic bishops in Mexico to excommunicate members of the Mexico City legislative assembly who recently voted to legalize abortion in the nation’s capital.
“Yes, this excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by Canon (church) law which says that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ,” he said.
"They (Mexican Church leaders) did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary. They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church… which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human personality is present from the first moment (of life)," he added.
The pope talked about church doctrine known as "automatic excommunication” where someone who does something which the church considers a grave sin inflicts on themselves.
Responding to those remarks, Benedict’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, indicated the pope had not put forth a new Catholic doctrine and did not intend to formally excommunicate anyone form the church.
But he did tell AP that pro-abortion politicians should not be getting communion.
"Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion," he said.