Bondevik may face papal rebuke

Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik's official trip to Italy will include a visit to Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Cardinal Angelo Sodano and the Pope himself are likely to raise the question of Norway's new marriage law, which Catholics feel violates their religious freedom, newspaper VG reports.

Bondevik will meet with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday, then will go to the Vatican to meet officials there, before having a private audience with the Pope.

Norway's new marriage law includes a clause where both partners must swear that they are entering into wedlock voluntarily - and also that they have an equal right to a divorce.

The idea behind the new legal addition, which came into effect July this year, was to protect Muslim women exposed to arranged marriages.

Father Claes Tande, of St. Olav's parish, calls the new clause a violation of Catholic religious freedom.

"It is impossible for a Catholic to marry and agree in advance that a condition of the marriage is that it can be broken," Tande told VG. The intention of marriage must be that is shall last all life long.

The Catholic church has protested the new law to Minister of Children and Family Affairs Laila Dåvøy.