Surrogacy is a process in which a woman carries and delivers a child for a couple or individual through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Speaking on Monday in a 45-minute address to Vatican-accredited diplomats, the pope described surrogacy as “deplorable”, adding that “a child is a gift and never the object of a contract”.

“I consider deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs,” he said.

“Consequently, I express my hope for an effort by the international community to prohibit this practice universally.”

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Pope Francis’ remarks comes just weeks after he had formally permitted Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples, many of whom support surrogacy and use it to have children.

The declaration had stirred controversy on the Catholic church’s stance on homosexuality. But the church had said the blessings were not justification or endorsement for the life they lead.

Pope Francis’ remarks are likely to antagonise pro-LGBT+ groups.

The Catholic church has long opposed surrogacy as well as IVF, for a variety of ethical and theological reasons.

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The practice is illegal in many countries around the world, as well as in Italy, the country that surrounds the Vatican.

In June 2022, Francis reportedly told a delegation of the Federation of Associations of Catholic Families in Europe that surrogacy was an “inhuman and increasingly widespread practice” in which “women — almost always poor women — are exploited” and children are “treated as merchandise”.

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