‘You don’t play with life’: Pope Francis condemns euthanasia, abortion on papal plane

Pope Francis speaks during a press conference aboard the papal plane from Marseille to Rome on Sept. 23, 2023, at the conclusion of a two-day visit to the southern French port city to take part in the Mediterranean Encounter, a meeting of young people and bishops. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Aboard the papal plane, Sep 23, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned euthanasia and abortion as actions that “play with life,” and said there is such a thing as “bad compassion,” during a press conference aboard the papal plane from Marseille to Rome on Saturday.

“You don’t play with life, neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is not played with!” he told journalists Sept. 23, as he returned from a two-day trip to Marseille, in southern France, to speak at a meeting of young people and bishops called Mediterranean Encounter.

“Whether it is the law not to let the child grow in the mother’s womb or the law of euthanasia in disease and old age,” he said, “I am not saying it is a faith thing, but it is a human thing: there is bad compassion.”

Aboard the plane, Pope Francis was asked by a French journalist whether he had spoken about euthanasia in his private conversation with France’s President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the day.

The French government is currently preparing to pass a controversial bill on end-of-life issues that could legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in the country. The vote, which was postponed because of the pope’s visit, will be held Sept. 26-28.

Francis said he did not address the topic of euthanasia with Macron on Saturday, but that he had expressed himself “clearly” on the issue when the French president visited him at the Vatican last year.

Macron, who made changing the end-of-life framework one of his campaign promises, declared his “penchant” for the Belgian model in April 2022.

Pope Francis said it is not just an opinion that life should be safeguarded, and warned that it is easy to fall into an idea that pain should always be prevented, even through what some might consider a “humanistic euthanasia.”

Instead, science has made great strides in helping people to control pain with medication, he noted, repeating that “you don’t play with life.”

In his comments, Francis also recommended, as he has on other occasions, that people read the 1907 dystopian science fiction novel, “Lord of the World,” by Robert Hugh Benson.

The author, he said, “shows how things are going to be in the end, [when] you take away all the differences, and also you take away all the pain, and euthanasia is one of these things… gentle death, selection before birth…”

Pope Francis has condemned euthanasia throughout his papacy, including referring to it as “a sin against God.”

On the Feast of our Lady of Fatima on May 13, the pope expressed his sorrow over the legalization of euthanasia in Portugal, which he called “a law to kill.”

He has also been firm about the need to provide the very ill and dying with palliative care, which seeks to improve the quality of life of people suffering from severe illnesses.

“We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide,” he said in 2022.

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