Pope extends power to forgive abortion to
all Roman Catholic priests
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[November 21, 2016]
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on
Monday extended indefinitely to all Roman Catholic priests the power to
forgive abortion, a right previously reserved for bishops or special
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 Sunday's close of the
Church's "Holy Year of Mercy".
He 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 Godís mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a
repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with (God)".
Francis had already temporarily granted the power to all priests to give
what is known as "sacramental absolution" for abortion during the Holy
Year, from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20, but the solemn tone of his words in
Monday's letter suggested that change would last for at least the rest
of his papacy.
"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 provision I had made in this regard, limited to the
duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended ...," he
In Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is such a serious sin that those
who procure or perform it incur an automatic excommunication, until it
is absolved in confession.
In the past, only a bishop or a designated chief confessor of a diocese
could grant absolution for an abortion.
[to top of second column]
Pope Francis walks after closing the Holy Door to mark the closing
of the Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy at the in Saint Peter's
Basilica at the Vatican November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Tiziana Fabi/Pool
Although bishops in some dioceses in developed countries such as the
United States and Britain had already delegated this authority to
parish priests, the old practice was still in effect in most of the
In a document last year, 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 agonizing and painful decision".
(Editing by Louise Ireland)
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