Pope Francis extends church forgiveness to women who have abortions - if they admit 'sin'

Vatican says softening of stance will only apply during upcoming Catholic Holy Year - 'for now'

This handout picture released by the Vatican press office (Osservatore Romano) shows Pope Francis holding up sacramental bread as he celebrates mass in Santa Marta at the Vatican on September 1, 2015
This handout picture released by the Vatican press office (Osservatore Romano) shows Pope Francis holding up sacramental bread as he celebrates mass in Santa Marta at the Vatican on September 1, 2015

Pope Francis is to grant all Catholic priests the power to forgive women who have had abortions, in a significant softening of the Church's stance on the issue.

In a letter published on Tuesday by the Vatican, Francis said he had "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision", and described the plight facing women who terminated pregnancies as an "existential and moral ordeal".

The Catholic Church has historically deemed abortion so great a sin that those who receive them or carry them out are automatically excommunicated.

That is not about to change, the Vatican said. But by allowing all priests the power to forgive - which was previously reserved for designated clergy - he has made another move towards a more open and inclusive church.

"This is by no means an attempt to minimize the gravity of this sin but to widen the possibility of showing mercy," Vatican chief spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters.

The change is to be introduced at the start of the Holy Year, announced by the Pope on the theme of "mercy" and due to run from 8 December to 26 November 2016.

Deputy Vatican spokesman Father Ciro Benedettini said the change would apply only during the Holy Year "for now".

Additional reporting by agencies

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in