Pope Francis has said all priests will be able to forgive abortion, extending indefinitely a temporary measure he had put in place for the Vatican’s jubilee year.
“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion,” the Pope wrote in a letter marking the end of the “Holy Year of Mercy”.
“The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary,” he wrote.
The 79-year-old Argentine said he wanted to “restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life”, but “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with [God]”.
Pope Francis, who has made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a characteristic of his papacy, made the announcement in a document known as an apostolic letter after the church’s “Holy Year of Mercy” concluded on Sunday.
The measure represents a significant softening of the church’s stance on the issue of abortion.
The Catholic Church historically deemed abortion so great a sin that those who undertook them or carried them out were automatically excommunicated.
In the past, only a bishop or a special confessor could grant absolution for an abortion in most parts of the world.
However, as Pope Francis brought the jubilee year to an end by closing the bronze-panelled Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, he gave an interview in which he criticised abortion as “a horrendous crime”.
In a document last year, Pope Francis described the “existential and moral ordeal” faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision”.
Additional reporting by agencies
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