A former president of the European Council has challenged a Vatican request for a Belgian religious order to stop offering euthanasia in its hospitals.

Herman Van Rompuy, former prime minister of Belgium, wrote on Twitter: “The time of Roma locuta, causa finita is long past.”

The Latin phrase, which translates as “Rome has spoken, the matter is finished”, is a paraphrase of St Augustine and refers to the ultimate authority of the Pope.

The politician posted the tweet after canon law professor Kurt Martens pointed out that Mr Van Rompuy was on the board of trustees for the Brothers of Charity group.

The group’s trustees agreed to allow euthanasia in their 15 psychiatric centres across Belgium, despite the practice being strongly condemned by Catholic teaching.

Brother René Stockman, the order’s superior general, criticised the trustees’ decision but has little direct authority over the board, which is primarily composed of lay members.

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