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Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience in Vatican City, Vatican on June 16. Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Vatican has formally voiced its opposition to a drafted Italian law that would expand protections for LGBT people as well as women and people with disabilities, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: The Vatican's diplomatic note to the Italian ambassador to the Holy See marks an effort to influence policymaking and could test "how forcefully the church can exercise its clout on culture war issues — not just as a religion but as a state," the Washington Post writes.

  • An Italian Foreign Ministry undersecretary called the missive “heavy interference," per the Post.

Details: Known as the "Zan Law," the bill aims to add crimes motivated by "sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability" to the definition of hate crimes acts, the Catholic Register reports.

  • The measure would also increase penalties for such actions, the Post notes.

The state of play: The bill was approved by the lower house of parliament last year and is currently being debated in the Senate, Reuters writes.

  • The Vatican claims the measure violates the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which defined Vatican City as a sovereign state.
  • "The Vatican fears that the law as written could lead to criminalisation of the Church in Italy for refusing to conduct gay marriages, for opposing adoption by homosexual couples through Catholic institutions, or for refusing to teach gender theory in Catholic schools, according to a Vatican source," Reuters writes.

Of note: Italy has some of Europe's weakest protections for LGBTI people, according to the association Rainbow Europe, which ranked the country 35th out of 49 European and Central Asian countries in 2021 for its legal and policy practices.

Go deeper

Pope Francis condemns politics in Biden Communion debate

Photo: Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Corbis

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholic bishops should not let politics influence pastoral decisions in an apparent criticism of clergy members who want to prevent pro-choice politicians from receiving Communion, AP reports.

Why it matters: President Biden's support for abortion rights has divided Catholics in the U.S. over whether he and other pro-choice politicians should be denied Communion.

24 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.