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March 14, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - One of Pope Francis' first acts as pope this morning was to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he greeted and blessed the unborn child of a woman who is five months pregnant. 

The pope spent about half an hour praying silently in the Basilica, which is devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus. 

Pro-life activists have welcomed the pope's election, pointing to his past statements strongly supporting the right to life from conception to natural death. 

When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires he defended the life of the unborn even in cases of rape, in very stark terms.

In a 2007 speech given to a gathering of priests and laity on October 2nd, then-Cardinal Bergoglio issued a defense of life even in cases of rape saying: "we aren’t in agreement with the death penalty," but "in Argentina we have the death penalty.  A child conceived by the rape of a mentally ill or retarded woman can be condemned to death."

In a statement last year he said that "abortion is never a solution," and urged that steps always be taken to preserve the lives of both the mother and the unborn child.