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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 03:41 GMT
Pope tells lawyers to boycott divorce
Wedding
A marriage must be for life, the Pope says
Roman Catholic lawyers should refuse to handle divorce cases, Pope John Paul has said.

He said divorce was "spreading like a plague" through society, and lawyers should refuse to be part of the "evil".


Lawyers, who work freely, should always decline to use their professions for an end that is contrary to justice, like divorce

Pope John Paul II
His comments came during an annual meeting with Vatican magistrates.

"Lawyers, who work freely, should always decline to use their professions for an end that is contrary to justice, like divorce," the Pope said.

"Marriage is indissoluble... it doesn't make any sense to talk about the 'imposition' of human law, because it should reflect and protect natural and divine law."

'Not a private choice'

The indissolubility of marriage was not a "simple private choice", but one of the fundamentals of all society, he added.

Pope John Paul II
Magistrates should mediate, says the Pope
The Pope said Catholic lawyers should not even try to help non-Catholics obtain a divorce.

And he said magistrates should also try to prevent divorce, although he acknowledged that this would be more difficult, as they could not be "conscientious objectors" refusing to hear cases.

"Those working in civil law cases should avoid being personally involved in what could be understood as co-operating in divorce... they should look for effective measures to favour marriage, above all mediating conciliation," he said.


Lawyers should be free to work with the laws of the state

UK family lawyer Denise Lester
It is thought to be the first time the Pope has urged lawyers to wash their hands of divorce.

Lawyers and some politicians reacted with anger.

'Freedom of choice'

"Lawyers should be free to work with the laws of the state," UK family law specialist Denise Lester told BBC News Online, stressing that lawyers already worked to promote reconciliation where possible.

"This is a multi-ethnic society where divorce is legal, and lawyers, as servants of the community, should be able to able to carry out their work.

"The Pope's comments could have an impact on freedom of choice for both lawyers and their clients."


Divorce, at times, is a salvation because it interrupts a spiral of hate and terror even for children

Alessandra Mussolini
Italian divorce lawyer Cesare Rimini told Italy's ANSA news agency: "The laws of the state do not interfere in the laws of the Church, so it would be right if the Church did not interfere in the realm of judges and lawyers."

Italian right-winger Alessandra Mussolini, grand-daughter of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, attacked the idea of saving marriage at all costs.

"Divorce, at times, is a salvation because it interrupts a spiral of hate and terror even for children," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Piggott
"This call will be hard for lawyers to obey"
The BBC's David Willey
"The Pope claims divorce is spreading like a plague"
Fr Michael Campbell, Bishops' Theology Conference
"Catholics have to make their own moral choices"
See also:

24 Jan 02 | Europe
Pope lights beacon of hope
23 Jan 02 | World
Worried Pope prays for peace
29 Mar 01 | World
Pope reaches out to Islam
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