SUPPORTERS of divorce in Italy are trying to deprive the Church of free speech through the "blackmail" of saying that a referendum on the subject would cause religious war in Italy. according to the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
Various lay groups have started action to seek a referendum in which it is expected they could muster enough votes to annul the divorce law which came into force in December in face of protests by the Vatican and Pope Paul.
A few days ago the Italian Bishops' Conference said citizens "have the right and the duty to undertake with all legitimate means the defence of those values which they hold to be essential for the good of the community."
L'Osservatore said an antireferendum campaign by divorce supporters had stepped up, particularly since February 11, the anniversary of the Church-State pact between Italy and the Vatican. "It has been accentuated in some cases to the point of blackmail," the newspaper said.
It cited editorials in Italian political party newspapers criticising the bishops' statement and saying a referendum raised the threat of a ChurchState war.
"It is others who are raising the question of a religious war," L'Osservatore said. "And it must be added that the threats of 'religious war' do not change the dimensions of the problem one millimetre."