Pope Benedict has called on Portuguese
Roman Catholics to oppose gay marriage as the nation's president
prepares to decide whether to veto a gay marriage bill approved by
lawmakers or allow it to come into force, Reuters reported.
Speaking Thursday in the city of
Fatima, the pope called for a greater defense of what he said were
“essential and primary values of life,” among which he included
the family. He said the family was “founded on indissoluble
marriage between man and woman.”
Abortion – legal in Portugal since
2007 – and gay marriage were “among some of the most insidious
and dangerous challenges facing the common good today.”
The pope has been warmly greeted during
his visit to the Catholic stronghold of Portugal. Up to half a
million people showed up to hear the 83-year-old pontiff speak at one
of holiest shrines where the Church believes the Madonna appeared to
three poor shepherd children in 1917.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva is under
pressure by the Church and conservative groups to reject the gay
marriage bill approved in February by lawmakers. Yet he has denied
reports that he's decided to veto the bill soon after the pope's
In March, the president, a Catholic,
forwarded four out of five of the bill's articles to the
Constitutional Court, setting aside a measure that prohibits gay
adoption. He said he did so because he doubted the bill's
constitutionality, but refused to say why he did not include the
article on adoption.
The court's majority, however, ruled
the four articles to be constitutional. By law, Cavaco Silva has 20
days from April 28 to make his decision.
Social Democrats – led by Prime
Minister Jose Socrates – say they have the votes to override a
If the bill is approved, Portugal would
join five European countries – Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands,
Norway and, most recently, Sweden – in legalizing gay marriage.
Lawmakers in Argentina
are also considering legalizing gay marriage.