Pope Francis has likened abortion to “hiring a contract killer” in some of his strongest remarks yet on the subject.
It was not fair to “take out a human life to solve a problem”, he said.
“Is it fair to hire a contract killer to solve a problem? It is not fair. We cannot take out a human being, even if it is small.”
The remarks, delivered during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square, were unscripted and deviated from his prepared text.
The comments are likely to be welcomed by conservative Catholics, particularly in the United States where a political battle rages over the issue but will be viewed with dismay by more moderate Catholics who defend a woman’s right to seek an abortion in certain circumstances.
Having an abortion meant eliminating “an innocent and helpless life”, the Pope told tens of thousands of people gathered in the piazza in front of St Peter’s Basilica.
It is not the first time he has used emotive language to condemn abortion.
In June, he compared abortion to the Nazis’ eugenics programme, the only difference being that it was performed with “white gloves”.
“Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” he told an Italian family association. He urged couples to accept children “as God gives them to us.”
“He has always been passionately against abortion. His position has been robust and consistent,” Austen Ivereigh, a Vatican expert and author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope said.
“This is in keeping with what he has always said, but he does love to use these shocking metaphors. He is trying to smash any justification for abortion, saying that it is not a cure but a violent act that takes a life.”
For Francis, abortion is part of the “throwaway culture” that he frequently rails against in his homilies and addresses.
He has often condemned society for marginalizing the poor, the elderly and the unborn.
In 2014, he said it was “horrific” to think that some unborn children “will never see the light of day”.
In a yearly address to a group of diplomats accredited to the Vatican, he criticized the world’s disposable culture, saying that it was not just food and material goods that were thrown away “but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as unnecessary.
His remarks, while outspoken, are in keeping with the teaching of the Catholic Church, which judges that life begins at the moment of conception and must not be terminated.
“Abortion is unacceptable in all circumstances – that remains official Catholic teaching,” said Mr. Ivereigh. “Pope Francis was very active in opposing any attempt to legalize it in Argentina earlier this year.”