THE CONTROVERSY on the Italian abortion referendum has abated as Pope John Paul avoided the subject in his speech to the Focolare New Families Movement at Rome's Palazzo -Dello Sport last Sunday.
In the context of praise for the movement. the Pope simply spoke of the sacredness of life. and of the importance of marriage.
At the weekend the Socialist Party secretary, Bettino Craxi, complained that the Pope was acting as if Italy was Poland. But the polemic was less heated than after some of the Pope's earlier statements against abortion.
Cardinal Ugo Poletti. the Pope's vicar for Rome, has reproved priests who have spoken in favour of the current abortion legislation and advised all Catholics to sote for its abrogation.
Bishop Fiorenzo Angelini, an auxiliary of Rome, claims the communists, socialists and radicals have made a political issue of the referenda by obliging their members to take a part) line instead of leaving it to their consciences.
On Monday a group of Catholic jurists issued a declaration in defence of the Pope's stand saying he violated neither the concordat nor the electoral law.
Right-wing Catholics advise abstention from the abortion vote for they consider the Movement for Life's proposal a concession to the "abortist mentality".
Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who was prominent in the anti divorce campaign. has kept a lower profile this time although he is considered an important supporter of the pro-life movement.
The abortion polemic threatens to damage the relations between the Christian democrats and the socialists in the Government coalition.