Former Belgian prime minister says Vatican’s authority long past

The former Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, has tweeted his rejection of Pope Francis’ authority to ban euthanasia, and says the time when Rome had the final say is “long past.”

Van Rompuy, who was prime minister from 2009 to 2014 and is also the first President of the European Council, was responding to Pope Francis’ order that the Brothers of Charity cease euthanising mentally ill patients by the end of August.

Van Rompuy sits on the board of trustees for the Brothers of Charity, which has 15 psychiatric care centers in Belgium.

The Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity announced in May that doctors were free to offer and perform euthanasia on mentally ill patients that requested it because of “unbearable suffering” and no hope of treatment.

The definition of “unbearable suffering” is vague, and leaves the door open for euthanasia to be performed on people that have treatment options available.

Van Rompuy’s tweet is a first public sign that the board, which is linked to the religious Brothers of Charity Congregation but separate from it, may not accept the Pope’s instruction to cease offering euthanasia.

The Brothers of Charity board is mainly made up of laypeople.

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