Vatican Attempting to Build Diplomatic Bridges with Obama Coverage in L’Osservatore Romano: Rome HLI

Tue May 19, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

ROME, May 19 ( - With a series of articles in their daily newspaper, the Vatican is signalling that it is willing to "build bridges" with the Obama administration, a prominent pro-life advocate in Rome has said.

In today’s coverage of President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, the Italian language edition of L’Osservatore Romano called abortion a "delicate issue," and emphasized the president’s assertion that he is attempting to find "common ground" with those who support the right to life.

"The ‘search for common ground’ seems to be the path chosen by the president of the United States, Barack Obama, to address the delicate issue of abortion," the unsigned article said.

The article repeated without comment Obama’s assertion that he wishes to "reduce the number of abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, facilitating adoptions and ensuring assistance and support to those who decide to keep the baby."

Italian press coverage noted that L’Osservatore Romano had declined to mention the more than 80 American bishops who have thus far objected in the strongest terms to the president having been invited to Notre Dame. Also not mentioned were the protests by hundreds of students and pro-life advocates, as well as the arrests of dozens of pro-life advocates on Sunday, including priests.

In recent weeks L’Osservatore Romano has produced a number of articles that have either praised Obama or have placed his extreme pro-abortion position into a carefully diplomatic soft focus. An article published on April 30 titled, "Obama in the White House: 100 Days that Didn’t Shake the World," was strongly criticised by pro-life advocates in the US for its use of the language and logic of the abortion movement. It raised concerns among pro-life Catholics who said it and others like it constitute a signal that the Vatican is moving away from its support for the pro-life position.

A pro-life advocate and former diplomat based in Rome said in an interview with that these articles make it clear that the Vatican’s diplomatic sections are trying to "build bridges" between the Church and the new US administration.

Monsignore Ignacio Barreiro, the director of the Rome office of Human Life International, told LSN that though he "respects" the effort, it is essential to address issues of simple logic.

"Someone has to ask the question," he said, "of whether we [as pro-life persons] can speak of a ‘common ground’ with those who believe that killing a baby in the womb is a right of women? That no authority, no human authority, can force a woman to respect the life of a child?"

"From a logical perspective I cannot see how we can speak of a common ground."

Msgr. Barreiro noted that L’Osservatore Romano, effectively an organ of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, had included an article in the same edition on statements by the US bishops against the Obama administration’s plans for expanding human embryonic stem cell research, and said, "This is to be praised." But it is clear, he said, that the Vatican is attempting to prepare for a diplomatic "dialogue"..

The Secretariat of State, he said, is being "prudent." "It is the normal function of the diplomat to build bridges. To try to dialogue in areas of disagreement."

The purpose of these diplomatic bridges, he said, is to attempt to slow the advance of Obama’s anti-life policies, particularly the Freedom of Choice Act that threatens to erase all legal protections for the unborn in the US. Barreiro said that although he respects the effort, he remains sceptical about the possibility of success.

Referring to the well-known commitment of the Obama administration to the abortion agenda, he said, "I understand the need to dialogue with political authorities, but we have to be realistic."

But whether the efforts of the Vatican will succeed, he said, is dependent upon the strength of the support by American Catholics for their Church’s stand against abortion.

"Our ability to negotiate," he said, "depends on the commitment of Catholics. The more Catholics are ready to defend life, the stronger is going to be our negotiation position. It is not on the ability of single diplomats, that the issue will be decided, but on the strength they can show of the support of millions of Catholics, and even Evangelicals, who are ready to do the utmost to defend life."

Read related coverage:

Pro-Life Leaders Worldwide Concerned About Weakening of Vatican’s Pro-Life Stand in Wake of Uncorrected Vatican Newspaper Article

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