Vatican Media Watch

Italian Political Parties Endorse “Baby Bonus'

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 4 — Opposing political parties in Italy have supported giving cash benefits to women during pregnancy or after birth — widely seen as a way of encouraging women not to have abortions, Associated Press reported.

The opposition Margherita party is proposing a 2006 budget amendment that would have the government pay $295 a month — starting from the sixth month of pregnancy until birth — to housewives, unemployed women or women who do not have maternity benefits and whose total household income is less than $47,000. For single women earning less than $29,400 a year, the payment would be $412 a month starting with the third month of pregnancy.

The party came forward with its plan — which on Dec. 2 reached committee level in the Chamber of Deputies — in response to a government budget proposal to pay a bonus to women who give birth. The opposition saw this as a way of the government currying support from the Church.

While the idea of a baby-bonus is not new in Italy, a country with one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, tying it to an anti-abortion initiative is.

This comes on the heels of Pope Benedict's recent denouncement of the killing of the unborn and the use of the so-called “morning-after pill.” In a speech in early December to Latin American bishops, the Pope said, “It is necessary to help all people to gain awareness of the intrinsic evil of the crime of abortion,” he said. He also appeared to be referring to the RU-486 abortion pill when he denounced “facilitating the elimination of the embryo.”

Pope Times Poland Visit to Avoid Soccer Frenzy

NEWKERALA.COM, Dec. 7 — Pope Benedict is likely to visit Poland next May to avoid soccer frenzy, sure to be associated with the June 9 kick-off of the World Cup in neighboring Germany, the wire service reported.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, former longtime secretary to Pope John Paul II, said “it would be better for the pilgrimage not to take place at the same time as the World Cup,” and that a final decision of the date of the Holy Father's visit was expected soon.

The Polish media reported earlier that Pope Benedict was likely to honor Holocaust victims with a visit to the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

Pope and Palestinian Discuss Middle East Peace

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 3 — Pope Benedict XVI met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and stressed the need to integrate all Palestinians in the peace process, the Vatican said — an apparent reference to extremist elements blamed for recent violence, according to the Associated Press.

Violence marred primary elections across the Palestinian territories, but Abbas told reporters Dec. 3 that he was working to “bring calm” to the region. Abbas also said that Pope Benedict with his “symbolic weight … can carry out a decisive role for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

At the end of their private 20-minute meeting in Benedict's library, Abbas invited the Pope to visit the Holy Land, saying he would “be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the Holy Places.” Pope Benedict thanked him for the invitation.

“I asked for his support and help in easing the difficult problems that the Palestinian people suffer,” Abbas said. His visit to the Vatican was his last major appointment in a three-day visit to Italy.