On Monday, Pope Francis extended the power of Roman Catholic priests to forgive the “grave sin” of abortion, in what has been described by some as a “signature gesture” from the Catholic Church’s just-ended Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The power to forgive abortion was a right previously reserved only for bishops or special confessors.
Pope Francis made the announcement in an apostolic letter after Sunday’s close of the Church’s Holy Year of Mercy. He is believed to have made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a cornerstone of his papacy.
In his announcement, Pope Francis said: “I want to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life” but added 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 [God].”
In Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is considered such a grave sin that those who procure or perform it incur automatic excommunication that can only be absolved in confession.