In a video interview to close the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis pulled no punches in his condemnation of abortion, calling it a “very grave sin” and a “horrendous crime.”
Asked to recall especially memorable moments from the Year of Mercy, the Pope spoke of two: the visit to a neonatal ward and a meeting with survivors of sex trafficking.
“I was thinking about the custom of doing away with babies before they’re born, this horrendous crime. They do away with them because it’s easier like that, because it’s more comfortable. It’s a great responsibility—a very grave sin,” Francis said, in reference to his visit to the San Giovanni Hospital on September 16.
The Pope’s interview was broadcast on Sunday evening after the official closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Francis said he was especially moved by the disconsolate weeping of a mother who had been pregnant with triplets, one of whom died at birth—an occasion that gave rise to his reflections on the evil of abortion.
“There was this woman who was weeping, weeping, weeping in front of her twins… very small, but very beautiful: the third had died,” the Pope said, holding back his own emotion. “She wept for her dead son, while she caressed the other two. The gift of life.”
“And this one had two children but wept for the one who had died,” he said.
It was in this moment, he continued, that he reflected on the custom of “doing away with babies before they are born.”
Earlier this year Francis took on the abortion industry head-on, calling it a “horrendous contradiction” when the family itself becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed.
“So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life,” he said in a teaching letter on marriage and the family, called Amoris Laetitia.
“How can we issue solemn declarations on human rights and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?” he said.
At the beginning of the Jubilee Year last fall, the Pope granted all Catholic priests the power to grant absolution to women who repent of the sin of abortion, a move that was erroneously interpreted as a softening of the Church’s position on the malice of abortion.
In point of fact, the Pope was emphasizing the power and breadth of God’s mercy, which extends even to our worst crimes.
In his Christmas message for 2014, Francis compared the killing of millions of babies by abortion to the slaughter of the innocents at the hand of King Herod, who sought to eliminate the newborn baby Jesus 2,000 years ago.
“Baby Jesus,” Francis began, “my thoughts go to all children who are killed and abused today.” First among these are those destroyed “before they ever see the light of day, deprived of the generous love of their parents and buried in the selfishness of a culture that does not love life.”
Earlier in the day Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass to mark the close of the Year of Mercy, telling a crowd of some 70,000 people in St. Peter’s Square that “God has no memory of sin” and is always eager to forgive.
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