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Catholic Church Denies Religious Funeral for Piergiorgio Welby

The Catholic Church has denied a religious funeral for the paralyzed Italian author who died after a doctor disconnected his respirator. It said had repeatedly voiced his wish to end his life, which is against Church doctrine. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

The terminally ill author Piergiorgio Welby, 60, died Wednesday night after a doctor switched off his life support machine. Welby who suffered from muscular dystrophy since he was a young man was confined to his bed and communicated with eye movements.

Three months ago he had written to the Italian head of state pleading to be allowed to die but euthanasia in predominantly Catholic Italy is illegal. It became a huge debate in Italy and support for Welby and his wishes came from other parts of the world.

After his death, his family wanted a religious funeral for him but the Catholic Church would not have it.

Mina Welby, the author's wife, said the Rome's Vicarate told the parish that the funeral was suspended. It said that Welby had often affirmed this desire to end his life and this is unacceptable for the church.

Welby's widow added that her husband was from that particular parish and so that's where she wanted the funeral to be held, especially given their situation because all the people there were close to them. She said the parishioners suffered with them.

Anti-euthanasia campaigners have said the doctor who pulled the plug committed murder. But Welby's widow has defended the doctor's decision to switch off his respirator. She said lay funeral would now be held for her husband in a Rome piazza on Sunday.