Pope Francis has denounced abortion as the "white glove" equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics programme and urged families to accept the children that God gives them.
Francis spoke off-the-cuff to a meeting of an Italian family association, ditching his prepared remarks to speak from the heart about families and the trials they undergo.
It comes as the Pope prepares to attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin in August, in the wake of the referendum in the Republic to relax the law on abortion.
Francis lamented how some couples choose not to have any children, while others resort to pre-natal testing to see if their baby has any malformations or genetic problems.
"The first proposal in such a case is, 'Do we get rid of it?'" Francis said. "The murder of children. To have an easy life, they get rid of an innocent."
Francis recalled that, as a child, he was horrified to hear stories from his teacher about children "thrown from the mountain" if they were born with malformations.
"Today we do the same thing," he said. "Last century, the whole world was scandalised by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves," Francis said.
The pope urged families to accept children "as God gives them to us".
Meanwhile, former Irish president Mary McAleese has said she has not gone to confession after voting Yes in last month's abortion referendum and has "no intention whatsoever" to do so.
She spoke out following comments by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran that Catholics who had voted Yes, intending that abortion would be the outcome of their vote, should go to confession.
Appearing at a conference at the weekend, organised by the Catholic lay group We Are Church Ireland in Dublin's Gonzaga College, Belfast-born Dr McAleese told former TV3 journalist Ursula Halligan: "I had no hesitation at the end of the day when it came to the vote - I absolutely voted Yes."
She added that, since voting, she has not gone to confession to repent her decision and has "no intention whatsoever" of doing so.
Asked about Bishop Doran's stance on confession, Dr McAleese said: "These are man-made rules, these are not statements of an infallible Church."
Meanwhile, Dr McAleese also revealed that she will take part in her first gay pride march in Dublin at this end of this month.
The Dublin Pride march which takes place on June 30 is themed 'We Are Family', a reference to the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families.
She said she will be taking part in the march with "my gay son and his wonderful husband".