The Pope's words came today as the Luxembourg Parliament was reaching an initial narrow approval of euthanasia legislation after a five-hour debate. The vote was 31 in favor and 26 against, with three abstentions. The bill might still be defeated, keeping Luxembourg from becoming the third European Union nation to approve euthanasia, after Belgium and the Netherlands.
The Holy Father, meanwhile, was receiving the new Luxembourg ambassador to the Holy See, Paul Duh, and in his address to him, the Pontiff took the occasion to speak out against euthanasia.
Benedict XVI expressed his "most deep concern about the text of the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide."
He noted that the bill is accompanied by legislation that itself contradicts the text, foreseeing regulations to develop palliative care so as to make suffering more endurable in the final stage of illness and to favor appropriate human support of the patient.
Nevertheless the bill, the Pope lamented, "concretely legitimizes the possibility of ending life."
"Political leaders, whose duty is to serve the good of man, as well as doctors and families, must remember that the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always bad from the moral point of view, and can never be licit," he continued. "Love and true compassion embark on another path.
"The request that arises from the heart of man in his supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when he feels the temptation to let himself be overcome by desperation, and feels lost to the point of wanting to disappear, is above all a petition for someone to accompany him and a call to greater solidarity and support in this test.
"This call can seem demanding, but it is the only one worthy of the human being, and it opens to new and deeper solidarity, which enriches and fortifies family and social bonds."
Addressing the people of Luxembourg, Benedict XVI appealed to their "Christian and humanistic roots," and asked them to reaffirm the "greatness and the inviolable character of human life."
Today's Parliament approval was the first reading of the bill, which was significantly modified since an earlier version was approved. Another reading will most likely be scheduled.
Furthermore, the chief of state, Grand Duke Henri, has said that he will not approve the legislation. His position has brought a call to amend the Constitution, stripping the monarch of his power to approve laws, and giving the position a purely ceremonial rule. Such a Constitutional amendment would be necessary before the euthanasia legislation could become effective.