In spontaneous remarks to thousands of listeners at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned abortion by comparing the practice to a targeted assassination.

“Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” the Pope asked. “You cannot, it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. [Abortion] is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem,” he stated.

Conservative Catholics had criticized the Pope for his reticence on abortion and other controversial topics. Observers considered Pope Francis’ latest pro-life remarks to be “some of his toughest to date.”

The Pope delivered his address at St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience, an occasion which attracted tens of thousands of spectators. Many in the crowd responded favorably to Pope Francis’ statements on abortion.

“I ask you: Is it right to ‘take out’ a human life to solve a problem? What do you think? Is it right? Is it right or not?” he asked. “No,” shouted the crowd.

“[H]ow can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life that is germinating be therapeutic, civilized or even simply human?” the Pope continued.

Catholic doctrine holds that life begins at conception and terminates at natural death. In previous interviews with news agencies, the Pope had focused his remarks on social issues such as inequality and immigration, stating that the Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with the debate surrounding abortion and traditional marriage. He had never questioned the Church’s teaching on abortion, however, and his latest comments confirm his commitment to pro-life values.

Nicholas Comerchero is a junior at Corban University, where he plans to complete his undergraduate degree in political science. Nicholas enjoys thinking, writing, and speaking about public policy and economics.