Pro-life leaders expressed shock after Pope Francis praised the "Margaret Sanger" of Italian politics.
In an interview early in February the Pope called former Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino one of the nation's "forgotten greats." Bonino for decades has been known as Italy's most outspoken abortion-rights activist.
In his interview with the Italian daily Corriere Della Serra
, the Pope acknowledged that his praise, in which he compared her to historical figures such as Konrad Adenauer, who was the first post-world War II chancellor of Germany, and the famed French statesman Robert Schuman, could be considered controversial.
He noted she has critics but dismissed them, saying, "True, but never mind. We have to look at people, at what they do." He also praised her work and advice in dealing with Africa.
The Pope's remarks surprised church traditionalists.
"How can the Pope praise a woman that is best known in Italy for practicing illegal abortion and promoting abortion?" said Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, who was until last year the head of the Rome office of Human Life International, reports the pro-life website LifeSiteNews
Bonino, a leading member of the Radical Party and former European commissioner, is well known for having an abortion at the age of 27 and then working with the Information Centre on Sterilization and Abortion, which was responsible for 10,000 abortions, notes LifeSiteNews.
She entered politics after being acquitted on charges of performing illegal abortions, the site says, and there are photos of her performing abortions using a homemade device operated by a bicycle pump.
Italian politician Luca Volonte, president of the pro-life Novae Terrae Foundation, suggested to LifeSiteNews that the Pope "was not really informed about how much Mrs. Bonino has done in Italy and at the international level to promote abortion and euthanasia."
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