SÃO PAULO, Brazil, May 9 — Benedict XVI arrived in Brazil on Wednesday, starting his first papal trip to Latin America with strong words against abortion, and roiling a Catholic continent increasingly divided by the issue.
On the plane from Rome, Benedict appeared to go further than the Vatican had before on the contentious issue of Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights. He seemed to suggest that Mexico City legislators who recently voted to allow abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy had excommunicated themselves.
“Yes, the excommunication isn’t something arbitrary — it’s part of the code” of church law, the pope said in Italian, in response to a question during the first full-fledged news conference of his two-year pontificate. “The killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going into communion in the body of Christ.”
The pope’s spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, quickly issued a clarification that played down his words, but then issued a statement approved by the pope that seemed to confirm a new gravity on politicians who allow abortion.