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VATICAN CITY - As the election in the US nears, the message from the Vatican is clear - Catholics should make their moral choices and voices heard through the ballot box.
In recent weeks Vatican officials from Pope Benedict down have been sprinkling their speeches with comments on the need for Catholics to pin their moral colours to the political mast.
"Religion is not like smoking," Benedict's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarscisio Bertone, said this week. "It is not something that can be tolerated in private but strictly controlled in public."
Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the number two at the Vatican council for justice and peace, said this week Catholics should not be caught "dozing off" when political choices were made, and warned that "God cannot be left in the pew".
Last week Archbishop Raymond Burke, a senior American in the Vatican, said the Democratic Party risked "transforming itself definitively into a 'party of death' because of its choices on bioethical questions and abortion".
Burke's words took off in the blogosphere, with some commentators attacking him for trying to influence the outcome of the election and others applauding what they said was his courage.
Apart from Burke, most Vatican comments have been general, with no specific reference to the forthcoming US presidential election. - Reuters