Pope Benedict XVI denounced Mexico City politicians Wednesday for voting to legalize abortion, saying they should no longer receive Communion.
Flying to Latin America, Benedict was asked about comments by Mexico City church officials that the lawmakers would be excommunicated for having voted last month for the legislation legalizing abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
“It’s nothing new, it’s normal, it wasn’t arbitrary. It is what is foreseen by the church’s doctrine,” Benedict told reporters aboard a plane to Brazil in his first full-fledged news conference since becoming pontiff in 2005.
Reporters flying with the pope took his comments to mean that he endorsed the comments by Mexican churchmen that the lawmakers should be excommunicated.
But the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, later issued a statement approved by the pope clarifying the remarks. The statement said the pope did not intend to excommunicate anyone. Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, Lombardi said.
“Since excommunication hasn’t been declared by the Mexican bishops, the pope has no intention himself of declaring it,” said Lombardi, who was on board the plane. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.”
Pressed further by journalists if the lawmakers were excommunicated, Lombardi reiterated: “No, they exclude themselves from Communion.”