The Italian Almanac

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Benedict doesn't approve

Italian News - January 18

Over two thirds of Italian Catholics are in favour of legal recognition for unmarried couples, including same-sex unions, despite Benedict XVI's clear disapproval, according to a new survey. Some 68.7% of Catholics in Italy agree with proposals to introduce so-called PACS contracts such as those that already exist in France and some other European countries, said the Eurispes research institute.

Legal recognition for unmarried couples has been a hot political issue recently in Italy, thanks to a campaign to bring in PACS contracts which would also be open to same-sex couples. Opposition leader Romano Prodi, who is to face off against Premier Silvio Berlusconi in April 9 elections, has said he supports the idea in principle. But both political blocs are divided on the question, with Catholic-oriented parties on each side opposed.

Only last week the pope reiterated his opposition to PACS-type legislation, saying: "It is a serious mistake to obscure the value of the legitimate family founded on marriage, by giving other forms of union the same legal recognition." For its survey on Italians and religion, which was released on Tuesday, Eurispes interviewed a sample of just over 1,000 people in late December and early January.

The survey also threw up other evidence that many ordinary Catholics in Italy reject the official Catholic line in the area of sexual mores. The survey found that 65.6% of Catholics say they want to keep the right to divorce, which was brought in amid controversy and against the wishes of the Vatican in the early 1970s. It also emerged that 78% of Catholics oppose the Church's ban on communion for divorcees and 82% favour abortion if the mother's life is in danger.