VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis reiterated his strong opposition to abortion on Friday (April 25), saying it “compounds the grief of many women” already succumbing to what he called the “pressures of secular culture.”

Pope Francis leads a procession after celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 24, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Pope Francis leads a procession after celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Dec. 24, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

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The pope’s remarks, to a group of bishops from South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, represented a departure of sorts for Francis, who has kept a relative silence on the issue as he tries to redirect the church’s energies toward combating poverty and income inequality.

Francis expressed concern about the challenges the African bishops faced in their communities, from abortion and divorce to violence against women and children.

“Abortion compounds the grief of many women who now carry with them deep physical and spiritual wounds after succumbing to the pressures of a secular culture which devalues God’s gift of sexuality and the right to life of the unborn,” the pope said.

“The rate of separation and divorce is high, even in many Christian families, and children frequently do not grow up in a stable home environment. We also observe with great concern, and can only deplore, an increase in violence against women and children.

“All these realities threaten the sanctity of marriage, the stability of life in the home and consequently the life of society as a whole.”

Only two weeks ago, the pope told members of Italy’s anti-abortion movement that human life was inviolable and abortion was an “unspeakable crime.”

“It must be therefore reiterated the strongest opposition to any direct attack on life, especially innocent and defenseless life, and the unborn child in the womb is the most concrete example of innocence,” he said at the time.

“Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: From the moment of its conception, life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”


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Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


  1. Amen!

    Sadly Francis is not going to be able to stop the over 27,000 unborn children killed each week in the US mostly for reasons of convenience and comfort.

  2. The media will give Francis a free pass on his abortion remarks, as long as:

    (1) He doesn’t try to give that same abortion speech in New York City.

    (2) He continues supporting legalized gay marriage (de facto), and continues to silence the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on that topic.

  3. Name 3 women you know who chose to abort a pregnancy just for “convenience” without thought to anything else. You’re just tossing around generalities because you have no first-hand knowledge.

    • Unfortunately, a close friend of mine had 5 abortions for reasons of convenience prior to her Christian conversion later on in life. In addition, my three grown daughters have also shared how many of their friends from high school, college and church who I have known over the years have had abortions either because the biological father was only a casual dating relationship or because having the child would have interfered with school or career plans. It is all very sad.

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