Pope Francis urged Catholics to be “firm and passionate” defenders of born and unborn human beings Monday in a new apostolic exhortation.
The document, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad), encourages Catholics to practice holiness in daily life and be “the saint next door,” CNN reports.
Pope Francis addressed a broad range of issues, from social media comments to poverty to immigration, but his comments about abortion received the most mainstream media attention.
Holiness is holistic, he said, and while each person has a special mission, no one should claim that their particular call or path is the only worthy one.
“Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred, and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development” the pope wrote. “Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia….”
And, he said, one cannot claim that defending the life of a migrant is a “secondary issue” when compared to abortion or other bioethical questions.
“That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian,” he said.
However, some liberal news outlets interpreted the passage as a criticism of pro-life advocates. CNN claimed the pope was “rebuking narrow-minded Catholics” who focus too much on protecting unborn babies from abortion.
In February, however, Pope Francis made several statements contradicting this interpretation. In a sermon marking Pro-Life Sunday in Italy, the pope expressed concern that not enough people are not involved in lifesaving efforts to end abortion.
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“This worries me,” the pope said. “There aren’t many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day, this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn’t useful, what is bothersome.”
Numerous times, Pope Francis has made it clear that there should be no compromise on the longstanding pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church. In a book released last year, he said the church believes abortion is the destruction of human life, but it also offers forgiveness and restoration for women who have had abortions.