VATICAN CITY, March 23, 2005 ( – A Vatican official launched a fourth appeal – in an unprecedented string of entreaties to the US judiciary – to spare the life of Terri Schiavo, warning that the disabled woman faces a “cruel” death.

Zenit news reported Tuesday that the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, expressed “disconcert and sadness” after hearing the news of another rejected appeal by Florida Judge James Whittemore. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta rejected an additional appeal Wednesday.

“I must confirm the moral judgment which does not change: It is an illicit and grave act,” to allow Terri’s death by starvation and dehydration, Bishop Sgreccia said to Vatican Radio. “It is especially grave, as it seems that the decision over a person’s life or death today is a court issue.”

“Therefore, I confirm the negative judgment, not only on the fact that food has been taken away from her, but also on the decision that tries to legitimize such a thing,” the bishop added. “I hope that these examples will not be followed by other similar decisions.”

Bishop Sgreccia added that the court’s decision “is not euthanasia in the literal sense of the term; it is not a ‘good death,’ it is a death that is induced in a cruel way. It is not a medical act. It is about taking water and food away to cause death.”

“I think that those who have expressed solidarity with the family are doing an act of great merit,” Bishop Sgreccia emphasized. He condemned the drive to have Terri killed “a mechanism of exaggeration that seeks to favour the legitimization of so-called euthanasia, in cases such as this one in which interests of another kind are often at stake.”