Pope: Abortion to avoid birth defects is like Nazi eugenics

VATICAN CITY, June 16 (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday called the practice of having an abortion after prenatal tests have discovered possible birth defects a version of Nazi attempts to create a pure race by eliminating the weakest.

Francis made the comparison in a long, off-the-cuff address to members of a confederation of Italian family associations.

"Children should be accepted as they come, as God sends them, as God allows, even if at times they are sick," he said.

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Pope Francis invites the poor to lunch following mass
A general view shows the Paul VI audience hall where Pope Francis welcomes 500 people in need and those who assist them to have lunch, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. Pope Francis celebrated a mass today to mark the first World Day of the Poor. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETER'S BASILICA, VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - 2017/11/19: Pope Francis celebrates a mass on the occasion of the first World Day of the Poor in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican on November 19, 2017. On Sunday morning in St. Peters Basilica, four thousand poor and needy people, accompanied by volunteers from Italy, France, Spain, Brussels, Luxembourg and Poland take part in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis. (Photo by Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) speaks with people around a table at the Paul VI audience hall where 500 people in need and those who assist them will have lunch, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. Pope Francis celebrated a mass today to mark the first World Day of the Poor. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) delivers a speech at the Paul VI audience hall where 500 people in need and those who assist them will have lunch, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. Pope Francis celebrated a mass today to mark the first World Day of the Poor. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A Swiss Guard stands in St Peter's basilica during a Holy mass to mark the first World Day of the Poor, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
Pope Francis (R) arrives at the Paul VI audience hall where 500 people in need and those who assist them will have lunch, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. Pope Francis celebrated a mass today to mark the first World Day of the Poor. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the Paul VI audience hall where Pope Francis (top C) welcomes 500 people in need and those who assist them to have lunch, on November 19, 2017 in Vatican. Pope Francis celebrated a mass today to mark the first World Day of the Poor. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows Pope Francis arriving to have a lunch with the poor following a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis arrives for a lunch with the poor following a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis speaks before sharing a lunch with the poor following a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis leads a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Cardinals and bishops attend a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor led by Pope Francis (not pictured) in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis leads a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Cardinals and bishops attend a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor led by Pope Francis (not pictured) in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis leads a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Pope Francis has lunch with the poor following a special mass to mark the new World Day of the Poor in Paul VI's hall at the Vatican, November 19, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
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Francis then spoke of pre-natal tests to determine if a fetus has any illnesses or malformations.

"The first proposal, in that case, is 'Should we get rid of it'? The killing of children. And to have a more tranquil life, an innocent is done away with," he said.

"I say it with pain. In the last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to pursue the pureness of the race. Today, we are doing the same thing, with white gloves."

Under Nazi eugenics programs, hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly sterilized and tens of thousands killed in an attempt to "clean" the chain of heredity of those with physical or cognitive disabilities.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Catherine Evans)

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