Pope Francis at the Vatican. (AFP)
Vatican City, Jan. 13 (Reuters): Pope Francis, whom conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church have accused of not speaking out forcefully enough against abortion, today called the practice “horrific”.
The pope made his toughest remarks to date on abortion in his yearly address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, a speech known as his “State of the World” address.
“It is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” he said in a section of the speech about the rights of children around the world.
Abortion, he said, was part of a “throwaway culture” that had enveloped many parts of the world.
“Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as unnecessary,” he said.
Since his election in March, the pope, while showing no signs of changing the church’s position against abortion, has not spoken out against it as sternly or as repeatedly as his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.
Both of those popes often delivered sermons against abortion, which the church considers murder.
Conservatives in the Church were alarmed when Francis, in a landmark interview in September with the Italian Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica, said the church must shake off an “obsession” with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
His stance favouring mercy over condemnation has disoriented conservative Catholics, notably in rich countries such as the US, where the Catholic Church has become polarised on issues such as abortion.
Last year, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, spoke for many conservative Catholics when he said he was disappointed that the pope had not addressed “the evil of abortion” more directly.
Conservative Catholic websites have criticised the pope in recent months for what they called his silence on abortion.
In the part of his speech about children, Francis also deplored their use as “soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts”.
Pope Francis put his first stamp on the group at the top of the Roman Catholic hierarchy yesterday, naming 19 new cardinals from around the world and emphasising his concern for poor countries.
Sixteen of them are “cardinal electors” under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect a pope. They come from Italy, Germany, Britain, Nicaragua, Canada, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Chile, Burkina Faso, the Philippines and Haiti.
Half of them are non-Europeans, indicating the importance Francis attaches to the developing world. Francis is the first Latin American pope and the first non-European pontiff in some 1,300 years.
Cardinals are the pope’s closest advisers in the Vatican. Apart from being church leaders in their home countries, those who are not based in the Vatican are members of key committees in Rome that decide policies that can affect the lives of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
The new cardinal electors are aged from 55 to 74. From Latin America are Archbishop Aurelio Poli, 66, Francis’s successor in the Argentine capital, and the archbishops of Managua in Nicaragua, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Santiago in Chile. Two are from Africa — the archbishops of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Abidjan in Ivory Coast. From Asia are the archbishops of Seoul in South Korea and Cotabato in the Philippines.