Pope Benedict XVI on Friday spoke out against support for euthanasia in Scotland, a country he is likely to visit during a trip to Britain later this year, and where parliament is debating an end-of-life-assistance bill.
The Pope’s remarks came in an address to a delegation of Scottish bishops in which he stressed the need to “give a strong impetus,” to the task of evangelising society.
“That task requires a readiness to grapple firmly with the challenges presented by the increasing tide of secularism in your country,” the pontiff added.
“Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life,” Pope Benedict said.
The pontiff was apparently referring to a bill tabled in January before the Scottish Parliament that aims to allow terminally ill people to seek help to die at a time of their choosing.
Euthanasia, which is also described as “assisted suicide,” is illegal in Britain. But the issue remains untested in law courts in Scotland where, while it is not illegal to attempt suicide, helping someone take their own life can lead to prosecution.
On Monday, in a similar meeting with bishops from England and Wales, Pope Benedict stirred the controversy when he appeared to criticise equality legislation in Britain designed to protect gays and women in the workplace.
The Vatican has yet to announce the dates or itinerary of the Pope’s trip to Britain, but reports indicate it will take place in September.