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ROME, January 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pope Benedict XVI told Italian politicians today that the imposition of legally recognized same-sex unions “penalizes” natural marriage.

In an address to political, business and social leaders of the city and province of Rome and the Lazio region, the pope said that the natural family, made up of one man and one woman bound in marriage with their children, is the “basic cell” of society in which “children learn the human and Christian values that make possible constructive and peaceful coexistence.”

“The approval of forms of union that pervert the essence and end of the family, ends by penalizing all those who, not without effort, are committed to living stable affective bonds, guaranteed juridically and recognized publicly,” Benedict said.

Lazio is the most populous of Italy’s regions (equivalent to a state or a province) and is the country’s government and financial hub because it includes the capital city of Rome.

The pope decried the region’s high rates of abortion and called on those politicians and leaders present to “support maternity concretely,” so that couples would not face financial constraints when deciding to have children and so that “women who are engaged in a profession the possibility of combining family and work”.

Quoting his own recent encyclical Caritas in veritate, the pope said that “openness to life is at the center of true development”. He praised local pregnancy support organizations and a local law of the Lazio region that includes unborn children in the “family quotient”.

“At the other end of life,” Benedict warned of the “fragile conditions” of the region’s growing number of elderly people and those who are in “precarious health”.

“I renew the invitation to promote a culture that respects life until its natural end, in the awareness that the measure of humanity is determined essentially in the relationship with suffering and the one who suffers.”

No form of same-sex union is recognized under Italian law, and homosexual behaviour is still not widely accepted among the general population in Italy.

A recent government report demonstrated that abortion is also not popular, with 70 per cent of Italian doctors refusing to participate, a number that rose to 80 per cent in Lazio. Abortion rates reached a peak in Italy of 234,801 in 1982. By 2009, that number had fallen to 116, 933, less than half the peak-year number with numbers falling particularly in the last five years.

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