The Vatican on Tuesday underscored its unyielding opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide, calling it an "act of homicide", as more and more countries consider legal reforms on the controversial issue.

Several countries from Spain to New Zealand are debating widening access to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

"Euthanasia... is an intrinsically evil act, in every situation or circumstance," it said.

"Abortion, euthanasia and wilful self-destruction... poison human society" and "do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury," it said.

Those who elect euthanasia cannot receive Roman Catholic sacraments, including anointing of the sick, it added.

"Although the text may not offer any surprises for those familiar with Catholic teaching on end of life issues, it appears notable for its firm language," said Vatican expert Joshua McElwee for the National Catholic Reporter.

The Vatican called euthanasia "an intrinsically evil act," no matter the circumstances
The Vatican called euthanasia "an intrinsically evil act," no matter the circumstances AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE

The Vatican said euthanasia was "an act of homicide that no end can justify, and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration".

Pope Francis met Saturday with bishops from Spain, where a bill to legalise euthanasia is in the Senate.

Should it pass, Spain would become the fourth in Europe to legalise doctor-assisted suicide following Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Italy's top court ruled last year that in cases of "intolerable physical and psychological suffering," it should not be considered illegal.

New Zealand is due to hold a referendum on both euthanasia and assisted suicide next month.

The Vatican's top official on life issues, Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, caused a stir last year when he said that he would hold the hand of someone dying from assisted suicide, according to religious website

The new text said those assisting people who choose euthanasia in a spiritual capacity "should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action".