During his three-day visit to Austria last week, Pope Benedict XVI said he rejects the concept that abortion is a human right and urged European leaders to do everything possible to raise birth rates and make their countries more child-friendly.
The 80-year-old pontiff told diplomats and representatives of international organizations that Europe could not deny its Christian roots, from which emerged the whole concept of human rights, reported Reuters.
"It was in Europe that the notion of human rights was first formulated. The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself," he said in an address on Friday at the former imperial Hofburg Palace.
"This is true of life from the moment of conception until its natural end. Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right -- it is the very opposite. It is a deep wound in society," he was quoted as saying.
The pontiff also decried Europe's declining birth rates, appealing to politicians "not to allow children to be considered as a form of illness."
He urged them to "do everything possible to make European countries once again open to welcoming children".
The average birth rate in the European Union is about 1.5 children per woman, and some countries have adopted incentives to encourage couples to have children.