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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 22:56 GMT
Pope likens abortion to Holocaust
Pope John Paul II gestures during a meeting with the Armenian president at the Vatican, 28 January 2005.
The Pope is on his fifth book
Pope John Paul II has launched a new book in which he controversially compares abortion and the Holocaust.

Memory and Identity, the pontiff's fifth book, says both are the result of governments clashing with divine law.

The contentious comments are among the Pope's reflections on the ideological conflicts of the 20th Century which form the basis of the book.

He also comments on the attempt on his life in 1981, suggesting that the Turkish gunman did not act alone.

'Transgressing powers'

The Pope writes that both abortion and the mass murder of six million Jews came about as a result of people usurping the "law of God" beneath the guise of democracy.

The Catholic Church does not understand or does not want to understand that there is an enormous difference between mass genocide and what women do with their bodies
Paul Spiegel
German Central Council for Jews

"It was a legally elected parliament which allowed for the election of Hitler in Germany in the 1930s..." he writes.

"We have to question the legal regulations that have been decided in the parliaments of present day democracies. The most direct association which comes to mind is the abortion laws...

"Parliaments which create and promulgate such laws must be aware that they are transgressing their powers and remain in open conflict with the law of God and the law of nature."

The president of Germany's Central Council for Jews, Paul Spiegel, linked the remarks to statements by Roman Catholic Cardinal Joachim Meisner in January comparing abortions to the repressions of Hitler and Stalin.

"The Catholic Church does not understand or does not want to understand that there is an enormous difference between mass genocide and what women do with their bodies," he told the Netzeitung daily last week.

But German Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said the Pope was not equating abortion with the Holocaust.

"He calls our attention to the permanent temptations for humanity, and on the need to take care not to fall into the pitfalls of evil," the cardinal said at the book launch.

At work

In the last chapter, the Pope gives a graphic account of the events immediately after he was shot in St Peter's Square in May 1981.

He lost consciousness, he says, on the way to the hospital and says he was practically dying when he was given a life saving blood transfusion.

The Pope describes vividly his meeting later with the Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to kill him.

The Pope says that Agca could not understand how the attempt to kill him had failed after very careful planning and execution, and speculates that the would-be assassin probably realised that there was a higher power at work.

Some 300,000 copies of the first edition of the book have been printed in Italy.

It has already been translated into ten languages and seems set to become a bestseller - despite the fact that the rather dense philosophical arguments do not make it an easy read, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

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