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CANDINAL WINS PRAISE FOR CRITICISING VATICAN ON EUTHANASIA

AFP - January 23, 2007 A high-ranking cardinal has criticized the Vatican's stance on euthanasia, winning praise Monday from friends of an Italian muscular dystrophy patient whose death was assisted last month. Rekindling debate on the issue, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini on Sunday urged the Vatican to pay "more pastoral attention" to the terminally ill such as Piergiorgio Welby who ask "in all lucidity" that care such as life support systems be withdrawn. Trade Minister Emma Bonino, a member of the libertarian Radical Party that championed Welby's cause, told Monday's Italian press that Martini's position was one of "great humanity." The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy refused to allow a religious funeral for Welby, who died December 20 after a doctor removed him from the respirator that had kept him alive for nine years. The stance shocked Italians, 68 percent of whom support the right to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment, according to a recent poll. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, another leading Vatican prelate, said Monday that the Holy See could not allow a religious funeral for Welby because "to the end, he persevered lucidly and consciously in the wish to be able to end his own life. "In these conditions, a different decision would have been impossible and contradictory for the Church because it would have legitimised behavior contrary to the laws of God," Ruini said in a speech opening the semi-annual assembly of the Italian bishops' conference, which he heads. Cardinal Martini said in a letter published by the daily Il Sole 24 Ore on Sunday that cases such as Welby's "will be more and more frequent" and that the "Church should be more attentive to them, notably at the pastoral level." The ailing 79-year-old prelate noted that the distinction between euthanasia and the refusal of excessive care is sometimes unclear, but said "the wishes of the patient cannot be ignored."





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