Pope Francis: Caring for the poor is just as important as opposing abortion
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Pope Francis has declared that caring for migrants and the poor is as holy as opposing abortion.

The pope on Monday encouraged followers to fight for the rights of the poor as strongly as they would abortion, according to The New York Times.

“The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist,” Francis wrote in an apostolic exhortation. “Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned.”

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Some Catholics consider caring for the poor as a “secondary issue” compared to abortion and other “grave bioethical questions,” Francis added.

“That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian,” he wrote. “This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad.”

The 103-page document is meant as a teaching pronouncement to “re-propose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time,” the Times reported.

“Seeing and acting with mercy: That is holiness,” Francis wrote.

He encourages his followers to engage with the world and worry less about demonstrations of faith and piety. Instead, he hopes they will lovingly raise children, work hard and represent “the middle class of holiness.”

The pope has often called on his followers to open their communities to immigrants.

The new declaration is likely to be viewed by his opponents as too progressive, observers said.

In 2016, Francis gave Catholic priests the power to forgive abortions

He has also fought against “fake news” and gave President Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on climate change.