Cardinal Bertone, Napolitano Discuss Englaro Case

Fight for Life of "Italy's Terri Schiavo" Continues

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's secretary of state has spoken with the president of Italy about the case of the woman who might be facing death by thirst and starvation.

On Saturday, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke with Giorgio Napolitano by telephone regarding Eluana Englaro, the Vatican reported today.

Englaro, being called "Italy's Terri Schiavo," is a 38-year-old woman who has been in the so-called vegetative state for 17 years.

She was moved at 1:30 a.m. last Tuesday from the hospital where she was being cared for, to a geriatric residence in Udine, which had agreed to fulfill the wish of Englaro's father: that she be disconnected from her feeding tubes and allowed to die. The process of decreasing the Italian woman's supply of food and water began Friday.

"In the conversation," the Vatican communiqué stated, "the case of Eluana Englaro was spoken of, as well as other discussions of mutual interest."

Regarding Englaro's case, it added, "lively appreciation was manifested for the acceleration given to Parliament for the approval of the legislation."

Here, the Vatican refers to the flurry of legal activity that has surrounded Englaro's plight in the last week, as Italy continues to be polarized by the pro-life/euthanasia battle.

As was made public Friday, the government is accelerating a procedure to carry forward legislation that would impede the suspension of nutrition and hydration from patients in the so-called vegetative state.

The legislation came after a similar decree from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was rejected by Napolitano, who cited doubts about whether or not it was Constitutional to handle the situation outside of Parliament.

Meanwhile, Vatican Radio reported Berlusconi explaining what motivated the Parliament move: "If we would not have decided to intervene to impede the death of a living being, who is alive and breathing autonomously, I would have felt like I had committed an omission [in failing to] aid [her]."

Cardinal Bertone's phone call came in the context of preparations for the anniversary of the Lateran Treaty, which will be held Feb. 18 at the Italian embassy to the Holy See. The president, prime minister and cardinal will participate in the event.

The Vatican on Friday clarified that the Italian press had been erroneous when it claimed that an earlier phone call had taken place between the cardinal and the prime minister.

Lending a hand

Benedict XVI today during the midday Angelus address, without referring to the Englaro case, spoke in defense of people in situations similar to hers.

He said: "Let us pray for all the ill, especially for those who are most grave, and who can in no way take care of themselves, but depend entirely on the care of others; may every one of them be able to experience, in the solicitude of those who are near to them, the power of the love of God and the richness of his grace that saves us. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us."