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Pope criticises Switzerland’s liberal stance

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Pope Benedict XVI has criticised Switzerland for embracing new laws on the "delicate questions" of life, family and marriage.

He made the comments in a written message to the new Swiss ambassador to the Holy See, Jean-François Kammer, who presented his credentials to the Vatican on Thursday.

“Like the majority of western European countries, Swiss society has undergone a considerable moral evolution and, under the dual pressure of technical progress and the will of part of public opinion, new laws have been proposed in several areas which affect the respect for life and the family,” said Pope Benedict in his message, which was published on the Vatican’s website.

“These concern the delicate questions of the transmission of life, illnesses and the end of life… and the role of the family and respect for marriage.”

Some observers have interpreted the pontiff’s words as a reference to ballot-box approval of registered gay partnerships in Switzerland earlier this month, the acceptance of a stem-cell research law last November and the legal “grey area” over assisted suicide.

Swiss bishops

But Amédée Grab, the head of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, played down the comments.

“He did not specifically mention the registered partnerships law,” Grab told Swiss radio on Thursday.

“The Pope raised delicate questions about the transmission of life and about illness… As with all the receptions of new ambassadors, he raised the [Roman Catholic] Church’s worries over the evolution of certain aspects of public life,” he added.

Grab was referring to the fact that after Kammer presented his Letters of Credence to the pontiff – a formality when taking up a post as ambassador – the diplomat, as is customary, received a written papal message containing references to the civil and religious situation in his country.

Democratic decisions

Asked whether the 78-year-old pontiff should be commenting on decisions taken democratically in other countries, Grab responded that it was perfectly normal for people outside Switzerland to do so.

“One just has to think about the French vote on the European Constitution,” said Grab.

In his message, the Pope also expressed views on Swiss foreign affairs and the country’s policies towards asylum seekers and foreigners.

He encouraged Swiss society to “stay open to the world which surrounds it, to take its place in the world and Europe and also put its talents at the disposal of the humanitarian community, particularly in the poorest countries which cannot develop without this aid”.

“I also wish that your country will continue to be open to those who have come to you looking for work or protection.”

Kammer was one of seven new ambassadors to the Holy See who were received by Pope Benedict XVI.

He has been Swiss ambassador to Prague since January this year, but his mandate also covers the Vatican.

swissinfo with agencies

Jean-François Kammer has been ambassador to Prague since January 2005. He also represents Switzerland at the Vatican.
He succeeds Hansrudolf Hoffmann, who was made ambassador to the Holy See last year.
The move followed the resumption of full diplomatic relations between the two parties, which had been limited for 130 years.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR