Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against abortion, euthanasia and homosexual marriages during an audience Thursday with delegates from the center-right European Popular Party. The delegates are attending the party's two-day congress in Rome, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of its foundation.

Pope Benedict addressed lawmakers from the center-right European Popular Party at the Vatican Thursday, and told them the Roman Catholic position on issues including abortion, euthanasia and homosexual marriages was not negotiable.

The pope said society should be shaped to defend human life, from conception to its natural end, should promote traditional marriage as the basis of the family, and safeguard the right of parents to educate their children.

With a general election in Italy just 10 days away, some politicians accused the pope and the Church of interfering in Italian politics.

Daniele Capezzone of the leftist Rose In the Fist party said he did not expect Italians to follow Church dictates.

"I think Italian Catholics will not follow them, because Italian Catholics are secular, liberal and have always known how to distinguish between their own opinion and the fact that state laws must be secular on divorce, abortion, on everything," he said.

In his speech to lawmakers, the pope said the Church was not interfering, but enlightening consciences. He asked lawmakers to defend the Church's right to proclaim what he said were principles inscribed in human nature itself, and, therefore, common to all humanity.

"Your support for Christian heritage more can contribute significantly to the defeat of a culture that is now fairly widespread in Europe, which relegates to the private and subjective sphere the manifestation of one's own religious convictions," said Pope Benedict.

Pope Benedict called on lawmakers to translate the values of Europe's Christian heritage into policies. By promoting its Christian roots, the pope said, Europe will be able to give a clear direction to the choices of its citizens and peoples, and this will reinforce the awareness of belonging to a common civilization.

The two-day European Popular Party Congress opened in Rome Thursday, and is being attended by more than 700 delegates, including 10 prime ministers. The congress is celebrating the European Popular Party's 30th anniversary.

Speaking at the congress, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also addressed the issue of Europe's Christian identity.
"Those, who, in the European Union, refused to accept a reference to the continent's Christian roots in the European constitution did not do a wrong to Christianity and our fathers, but rather did a wrong to our children," said Mr. Berlusconi.  "We do not want them to grow up without a history, without values and without an identity."

He also said Europe must have political autonomy, as far as defense and security, but the ties between the European Union and the United States must remain strong and solid.  A conflict between them, Berlusconi added, would compromise security and prosperity in the whole world.