VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that euthanasia is a "false solution" to suffering, adding his voice to a bitter debate in Italy over the fate of a comatose woman whose father wants to remove her feeding tube.
During his Sunday blessing, Benedict said that love can help confront pain and that "no tear, from those who suffer and those who are with them, is lost before God."
Benedict didn't mention Eluana Englaro by name, but it was clear he was referring to her case, which has made headlines in Italy for months.
Englaro has been in a vegetative state since 1992 after a car accident. She was 20 at the time.
Her father has fought a decade-long court battle to disconnect her feeding tube; he says his daughter visited a friend in a coma shortly before her accident and expressed the will to refuse treatment in the same situation.
In July, Italy's highest court ruled that Englaro's feeding tube could be removed, upholding a lower court ruling. But Italy's health minister, Maurizio Sacconi, issued a decree in December telling hospitals across the country that they must guarantee care for people in vegetative states.
Italy does not allow euthanasia using methods such as fatal doses of drugs. Patients have a right to refuse treatment, but no law allows them to have a living will in case they become unconscious.
Since Sacconi's decree, at least one clinic has offered, and then declined, to have Englaro brought there to have her feeding tubes disconnected.
Sacconi's intervention has prompted heated criticism, including from Judge Giuseppi Grechi, the president of Milan's appeals court. In a speech Saturday, Grechi admonished any political interference in judicial matters.
"Sentences can be criticized," he said. "But neither legislative nor executive powers can nullify definitive sentences."
In 2007, the Vatican condemned American Terri Schiavo's death as "arbitrarily hastened" and called the removal of her feeding tube a violation of the principles of Christianity and civilization.
She died March 31, 2005, in a Florida hospice after her parents unsuccessfully battled a court order to have her feeding tube removed.