FATIMA, Portugal, June 15, 2011 ( – In the wake of the appointment of a new Portuguese prime minister, Cardinal José Policarpo says that Church authorities will be on the alert for any new possibilities of overturning the country’s four-year-old abortion law, according to the Portuguese Catholic news agency Agencia Ecclesia.

Noting that it is no “secret for anyone that the Church doesn’t identify itself” with Portugal’s legislation permitting abortion on demand for the first ten weeks of pregnancy, Policarpo added that “these divisive laws are never definitively resolved.  They can always come to the surface, in new circumstances.”

Although he clarified that “it is not our business to take initiatives in this area,” Policarpo claimed that the bishops “will be attentive, if the circumstances arise.”

Although the nation’s new prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, is a member of the right-wing Social Democratic Party, he has made it clear that he will not attempt to overturn Portugal’s abortion law, calling such attempts “silly.” However, Coelho has admitted that a referendum could force the issue to a vote.

Policarpo also complained that the Portuguese government is not properly enforcing the restrictions on abortion that are codified in existing legislation, including a three-day waiting period during which women must be informed of their options.

“In the logic of the governance, it isn’t necessary to question the law to demand that it be fulfilled with a minimum of respect for the human person and for life,” said Policarpo, who added that “the prior counseling of the woman who asks for an abortion, clearly required by the law, hasn’t been done.”

Policarpo, who as Archbishop of Lisbon holds the title of Cardinal Patriarch of Portugal, is also the current president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, an organization that includes all of the bishops of the country. His comments were made during a recent press conference in Fatima, the country’s most important pilgrimage site.


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