VATICAN CITY, Nov. 21 (UPI) — Pope Francis on Monday declared in an apostolic letter the “grave sin” of abortion can be forgiven by “all priests” for the next year.
Francis said the decision was partly made to encourage “a more fervent experience of the sacrament of Confession” following the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Sunday.
“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion,” Francis wrote in the letter.
Francis said abortion could be forgiven unless “any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness.”
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” Francis wrote. “May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”
Prior to the Year of Mercy, forgiving abortion in the Catholic Church was a power granted to bishops, who could delegate the responsibility to their priests.