Northern Ireland

Pope's 'Nazi' abortion remarks spark controversy ahead of Irish visit

Pope Francis has compared abortion to Nazi eugenics. Picture by Andrew Medichini, Associated Press
Pope Francis has compared abortion to Nazi eugenics. Picture by Andrew Medichini, Associated Press

Pope Francis has echoed controversial DUP comments comparing abortion to Nazi killings ahead of his visit to Ireland later this summer.

The leader of the Catholic Church has denounced abortion as the "white glove" equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics programme and urged families to accept the children that God gives them.

Speaking at a meeting of an Italian family association, he lamented how some couples choose not to have any children, while others resort to pre-natal testing to see if their baby has any malformations or genetic problems.

"The first proposal in such a case is, 'Do we get rid of it?"' Francis said.

"The murder of children. To have an easy life, they get rid of an innocent."

Francis recalled that, as a child, he was horrified to hear stories from his teacher about children "thrown from the mountain" if they were born with malformations.

"Today we do the same thing," he said.

"Last century, the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves," Francis said.

The Pope urged families to accept children "as God gives them to us".

The pontiff will travel to Ireland in August for the World Meeting of Families, just months after a referendum removed a restriction on abortion in the constitution, paving the way for the government to legislate for terminations up to 12 weeks pregnancy.

Earlier this month, DUP MLA Jim Wells was criticised by his party leader after he compared the number of abortions in Britain since laws were relaxed there to those murdered by the Nazis in concentration camps. Party leader Arlene Foster said Mr Wells was wrong to make the comparison.

Green Party MLA Claire Bailey, who has campaigned to allow access to abortion for women in in Northern Ireland, said she was not surprised by the Pope's comments.

"While it is unsurprising to hear the Pope reiterate the Catholic Church's stance on abortion, the referendum result in the Republic shows that people overwhelmingly trust women. We must treat women with dignity, respect and compassion,” she said.