A senior Catholic cleric has told a vigil for expectant mothers that abortion can never be justified.
During a day of prayer at Knock, Co Mayo, Bishop Brendan Leahy, the recently-installed Bishop of Limerick, voiced opposition to new legislation that would allow pregnancy terminations in limited circumstances.
"The direct taking of the life of an unborn child cannot be justified on the grounds of intention in the case of a mother's threatened suicide which ought to be treated by other means," he said.
Catholic pilgrims from diocese across Ireland travelled to the event which was advertised in churches over recent weeks. It started with a rosary procession around the shrine.
Bishop Leahy added: "Many women will attest that pregnancy involves wonder. But it also involves suffering and sacrifice for the mother. In some pregnancies crises arise that involve both the mother and the child in her womb.
"When hard cases occur, they underline the truth that we are dealing with two persons and that what matters is that in the logic of love, all must be done to protect the life both of the mother whose life is at risk and of the innocent unborn child."
This week, government ministers announced the head of a bill to allow for limited access to abortion where a woman's life is in danger, including the threat of suicide.
They were spurred into action after the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who was denied a termination at a Galway hospital last October.
The Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 sets out a clear legal framework for women and medical practitioners.
It states that in a medical emergency one doctor will be needed to certify the necessity for a termination; in a non-emergency, where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, two doctors will be required; and where a pregnant mother manifests suicidal ideas, three doctors.