Pope Benedict XVI is supporting calls to boycott an Italian referendum on assisted fertility, scheduled for 12-13 June. In the referendum, which requires a 50 per cent plus one vote turnout to be valid Italians, will be asked if the state should lift restrictions on egg/sperm donation, artificial insemination and embryo research. Although he made no specific declaration, the pope told a conference of Italian bishops, who have been campaigning hard for a boycott: "I am close to you in word and prayer." He congratulated them on their work to "enlighten the choices of Catholics" before adding that Italians should defend "the sacredness of human life and the promotion of the role of the family in society". But the popes words have caused anger in the Yes camp, who are in favour of changing the present law, and have been termed by some left-wing politicians as an unwarranted interference in the affairs of the Italian state. For his part, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, has been a high-profile supporter of a boycott, though he admits the present laws "do not correspond to the ethics of the Church".
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