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Pope: Women who have abortion must be consoled, not punished

Abortion is a “terrible’’ drama but women who go through it must find mercy rather than castigation, Pope Francis said on Monday. “To really understand the drama of abortion you have to be in a confessional, (it is) terrible,’’ Francis told journalists on a return flight from a six-day visit to Panama.

In the confessional, you have to offer consolation, not punishment,’’ he added.

If a woman is tormented by an abortion decision, she should “talk’’’ to her unborn child and “sing the lullaby (she) could not sing to him,’’ because the child “is in Heaven,’’ the pope said.

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“There you find a path of reconciliation between the mother and the (aborted) child. Because God has already forgiven. God always forgives,’’ Francis said.

During the Panama trip, the pope led a mass in which a young man denounced abortion as an act of “terrible cruelty,’’ and prayed for abortion laws around the world “to be erased forever.’’

Francis is widely considered more liberal than his predecessors, and has said the Catholic Church should focus less on enforcing doctrine, and more on reaching out to those who stray from it.

For example, he has made it easier for women to seek a pardon for abortion, giving all priests rather than just bishops the right to hear such cases and issue absolution.

However, Francis has not changed fundamental church teachings on family planning.

In October, he said women who opt for abortion are like people who hire “a hitman to solve a problem.’’ (NAN)