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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Italy: Berlusconi 'Massacred' in Regional Elections

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi votes in the regional elections in Milan April 3, 2005....

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi suffered a crushing defeat at Italian regional elections, official results showed on Monday, a huge boost for center-left leader Romano Prodi's hopes of unseating him next year.

In what one of his defeated regional governors described as a "massacre," Berlusconi's center-right coalition appeared to have lost 11 of the 13 regions at stake, holding on to just two -- Lombardy and Veneto -- both in its stronghold in the north.

Prodi, who had said he would be satisfied by winning just one new seat, was delighted by his landslide victory.

"Today we have easily won in terms of the number of votes and the number of regions," he told a news conference.

"With this vote Italians are asking us to prepare to govern, to take the country forward."

The death of Pope John Paul on Saturday overshadowed the election but did not keep voters away. Turnout reached 71.4 percent, down just 1.7 percentage points from the last one.

Berlusconi had prepared his supporters for a poor result, saying he expected a mid-term backlash due to Italy's economic woes. But the outcome was far worse than expected.

Although the final count would not be finished until Tuesday, late preliminary results indicated the center-left had wrested six regions from government parties, giving it control of 15 of Italy's 20 regions.

Berlusconi made no comment, but Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, head of the right-wing National Alliance (AN) party, said the defeat was a bad omen for next year's general election.

"We need a lot of humility and great seriousness and them maybe the result in 2006 can still go the way of the center-right," he told talk show on RAI television.

"The government is weaker politically but that does not mean we will resign."


Some opposition figures disagreed. "Berlusconi should draw the right conclusions and not prolong the agony for another year," said left-wing parliamentarian Antonio di Pietro.

A defeat in regional elections in 2000 prompted the then prime minister, the center-left's Massimo D'Alema, to step down -- ultimately making way for Berlusconi's rise.

Berlusconi ruled out resigning early even before the polls opened, saying he would see out his five-year mandate as the longest-serving premier in post-war Italian history.

The center-right appeared to have lost all three regions which parties and pundits saw as the most crucial: Puglia in the south, Lazio in the center and, probably, Piedmont in the north.

The defeat is the latest and most serious in a string of electoral setbacks for Berlusconi in local elections which have dented the premier's standing since taking power in 2001.

Francesco Storace, the pugnacious center-right president of the Rome region Lazio, said the results around the country had been "a massacre" for the center-right.

Prior to the vote, Storace said defeat in Lazio would herald a center-left general election victory. "If we lose in Lazio the successor to Berlusconi can only be Prodi."

Storace, from Fini's AN party, said he would not ask for a re-vote despite a controversy over a rival's alleged use of false signatures on electoral documents.

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of wartime dictator Benito Mussolini, was initially barred from the election but then readmitted by an appeals court.

"The verdict should rest with the voters, not the lawyers," Storace said. The margin of his defeat suggested he would have lost even if Mussolini had not divided the right-wing vote.

A fourteenth region, Basilicata, which is held by the center-left, will vote on April 17-18.

Robin Pomeroy and Gavin Jones

John-Paul II - Legacy of a Pro-Life Pope

As the world mourns the death of John Paul the Great, LifeSiteNews.com commemorates him as a champion of life. LifeSiteNews.com has written over 5000 articles concerning the Holy Father since 1997.

Conservative commentator John O'Sullivan, writing in the Washington Times, reflected the sentiments of pro-lifers: "His teaching uppermost in most minds when he died was his commitment to a culture of life. There is an almost eerie symbolism in his entering the next world so shortly after Terri Schiavo, whose right to life he championed," O'Sullivan added.

Just last year, Pope John Paul II convened a conference on end-of life care. Those in what doctors describe as a persistent vegetative state, the Holy Father emphasized, still must have access to the basic rights of food and water. "The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.).He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery." The Holy Father added: "I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act."

John Paul II defended the right to life at every opportunity - in numerous letters, encyclicals, papal addresses and homilies. In his most recent book, Memory and Identity, John Paul II compared abortion to the Holocaust. "There is still, however, a legal extermination of human beings who have been conceived but not yet born," he wrote. "And this time we are talking about an extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments where one normally hears appeals for the civil progress of society and all humanity."

In the same book, published February, the Holy Father described same-sex "marriage" as a "new ideology of evil." "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man," he wrote.

For more LifeSiteNews.com coverage on the Pope simply type "Pope" into the search engine on our home page and hit enter

POPE JOHN PAUL II: Asia Remembers a Champion for the Downtrodden

As Father Paul Nettham, pastor of the Thai capital's Holy Redeemer Church prepares his congregation at Sunday mass for holy communion, he tells the packed church in a somber voice: ''For our beloved Pope John Paul II, who's passed from this life to an everlasting one...Lord have mercy.''

A resounding ''Lord have mercy'' comes back from the pews. And this prayer was repeated from Thailand to the Philippines, India, China and East Timor, at the second Sunday of Easter, as church bells tolled for the pontiff who died late Saturday aged 84.

While Catholics in the old Europe are grappling to justify their existence in a rapidly changing world, Asian, African and Latin American churches are fast attracting new converts and priests. Out of the close to one billion Catholics in the world, it is estimated that in Asia alone there are 100 million followers.

And for many Asian Catholics, Pope John Paul II was a champion for the poor and downtrodden.

''He was always aware of the people around him and sensitive to the injustices they suffered,'' Kaitsuda Suriyayos, a magazine editor, told IPS after attending Sunday mass. ''He was a man of peace and the world will never forget him.''

In Asia's newest country, East Timor, the pope is well loved and remembered for sowing the seeds for mass demonstrations against the Indonesian army - the island's former occupiers.

As church bells tolled early Sunday morning in the fledgling country where 90 percent of its 600,000 population are Catholic, Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri declared a three-day mourning for the pontiff with the country's flag flown at half-mast

''To the East Timorese people, Pope John Paul II is a hero. In October 1989 he came to East Timor knowing we were oppressed by the Indonesians,'' local journalist Jose Antonio Belo, in the capital Dili, told IPS in a phone interview.

''The Timorese youths took that as an opportunity to protest against the Indonesian occupation and that was the start of organised demonstrations by the clandestine movement,'' he pointed out.

Fransec Valls, of the Madrid-based daily 'El Pais' was one of the journalists who witnessed the demonstrations during the pope's visit.

''The extreme care with which the Indonesian government had prepared for the Papal visit to the East Timor capital Dili, turned out to have been in vain,'' he wrote. ''Shouts of 'Viva Timor Leste' in favour of an independent East Timor echoed in Portuguese and Tetum when John Paul II concluded mass with the versicle 'ite missa est'.''

In May 2002, East Timor became independent after being administered for two years by the United Nations, following a 1999 referendum where the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to break away from Indonesia.

In the predominately Catholic Philippines, the pope also holds a special place in the hearts of most Filipinos and he is credited with providing inspiration for the People's Power revolt against the dictatorial Marcos regime.

According to Philippine journalist Ahmed Toledo many Filipinos were taken up by the 1980 birth of the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland, in which the pope had a role to play. A year earlier, after his consecration as pope, John Paul II returned to his native Poland for a nine- day visit that heralded the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire.

The trade union movement would enlist 10 million Poles as members, and priests visiting the imprisoned Solidarity leaders often concealed messages of encouragement from the pope in their robes.

''That sent a message to all of us who were fighting to overthrow the regime of Ferdinand Marcos,'' said Toledo in an interview. ''The pope sort of made it known that it was justified for a Catholic nation to remove dictators.''

Added Toledo: ''The struggle in Poland was certainly an inspiration for us and this led to the People's Power events in 1986 which saw Marcos fleeing the country.''

In the autumn of 1989, Solidarity played the pivotal role in bringing down Poland's communist government and replacing it with a democracy.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo led the nation in expressing a ''deep sense of grief'' over the pontiff's death.

''Our people receive the news of his death with a deep sense of grief and loss,'' Arroyo said in a statement.

''The world will miss a great spiritual bridge among all nations,'' she said, adding that ''the weak and oppressed will always remember their hero and advocate who sowed peace and love by his awesome charisma and noble deeds''.

Meanwhile in China, which only allows its Catholics to worship in officially sanctioned groups with no ties to the Vatican, state-run media released only a trickle of information.

The official 'Xinhua News Agency' reported the death on its domestic Chinese-language service and its English-language world service shortly after 2000 GMT.

'Xinhua' also said the Catholic Patriotic Association of China and the Chinese Catholic Bishops College sent a telegram to the Vatican expressing ''deep condolences.''

''It is very sorrowful to know that Pope John Paul II has passed away at the call of God, to rest in Lord for good,'' 'Xinhua' cited the telegram as saying. ''It would be a great loss for the pastoral and evangelical works of the Universal Church.''

China's Communist government, which took power after the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in 1949, expelled the Vatican's ambassador in 1951 and ties with the Roman Catholic church were severed.

The internuncio Archbishop Antonio Riberi escaped to the island of Taiwan off the south- eastern Chinese coast, which the Holy See continued to recognise as China's official government. In the years following Riberi's expulsion, Catholics were condemned as ''anti- government'' and ''anti-revolution'' and a huge number of bishops, priests and lay people were imprisoned.

In India, where there are 16 million Catholics, special masses were planned in churches in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the predominantly Christian northeast, reports said.

The pope visited India twice during his 26-year papacy -- in 1986 and 1999. The latter visit stirred controversy with Hindu nationalists who had demanded a papal apology for alleged religious conversions by Christian missionaries in Hindu majority India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday described the pontiff as a ''people's pope'' who especially endeared himself to Indians when he initiated the process of granting sainthood to Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, who founded the Calcutta-based Missionaries of Charity that cared for the sick and poor in the eastern Indian city.

She died in 1997 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 19, 2003, in one of the fastest beatifications in Catholic history.

Sonny Inbaraj
BANGKOK, Apr 3 (IPS) -