Bono rejects Pope's criticism of reform agenda

24th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 January 2005, MADRID-A senior minister hit back at claims by the Pope that Spain's Socialist government was failing to defend the Christian way of life.

25 January 2005

MADRID-A senior minister hit back at claims by the Pope that Spain's Socialist government was failing to defend the Christian way of life.

Defence Minister Jose Bono insisted it was not up to the government to preach Christianity to the electorate.

"One cannot keep on criticising the government for its lay nature.

"It is not up to the government to preach Christianity," Bono told Spanish television.

On Monday, Pope John Paul II had said Spanish government ideology, which includes making religious instruction in schools optional, "will lead to the restriction of religious freedoms and promote disrespect and even ignorance of religion," which he said ran counter to a "noble" Spanish tradition.

But Bono brushed off the criticism.

"Faith is not something a government can impose by decree," added Bono, one of a few practising Catholics in Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's  Socialist government and the only one to take the oath of office last year on the bible.

Bono called on the Church, traditionally highly influential in Spain, not to allow its views on society to become "clouded by (the issue of) sex," a clear reference to the controversy stirred by the government's decision last year to legalise gay marriages and promote condom use to ward off AIDS.

He said: "Christ would today be more concerned by the 25,000 children a day who die of hunger in the world and by bloody wars which are contrary to international law" than arguments such as who people sleep with.

In an audience on Monday, the Pope  told Monsignor Antonio Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, and a group of Spanish bishops visiting the Vatican, he was concerned at what he called an encroaching climate of permissive morality in Spain.

The pontiff asked Catholics to seek "to defend the religious education of their children, to protect the sanctity of marriage and family and to defend the name of God and the human and social values of the Christian religion."

The Pope also criticized Spanish government plans to make religious education in public schools voluntary by allowing students to replace religion with a civics course.

The Spanish media have been divided on the pontiff's comments.

The daily El Pais judged them "excessively harsh" and posing a risk to the "delicate relations between Church and state," fomenting "absurd frictions which will lead to no good."

The Barcelona-based El Periodico said the pope was "unjust to impose his theses on everyone else," adding that "society is plural, and morality as well."

But the conservative La Razon newspaper said the pontiff's thoughts "coincide essentially with those of millions of Spaniards" and that "the government would do well to abandon its policy of imposing (its ideas) and of non-dialogue with the Church."

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news




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