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Funeral held for man who fought for right to die

ROME (AP) — Hundreds gathered in a Rome square Sunday to hold a lay funeral for a paralyzed author who died after having a doctor disconnect his respirator and was denied a religious service by the Roman Catholic Church.

Applause greeted the arrival of the coffin holding Piergiorgio Welby at a piazza in front of the parish church where his family had originally hoped to hold the ceremony.

“We have a different sense of religion, less stiff, probably less bigoted, but together we express a deep religiousness,” said Emma Bonino, Italy’s minister for European Union affairs and foreign trade and a member of the Radical Party.

The party championed Welby’s long campaign to legalize euthanasia, which in Italy can be punished by up to 15 years in prison.

“We already knew that there isn’t a (real) secular state, yet this can be a first step,” said Linda Brit, 62, who is originally from the Netherlands and decided to attend Welby’s funeral in a show of support.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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