Vatican City: Pope Francis on Monday granted all Catholic priests the permanent power to forgive abortion, which he called “a grave sin”.
In his ‘apostolic letter’ Francis handed priests the power previously reserved for bishops or special confessors and which he temporarily gave them for the Vatican’s just-ended Holy Year of Mercy.
“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” Francis wrote in the letter released by the Vatican.
But Francis also stated: “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).”
The letter represents a significant softening of the Church’s stance on the issue of abortion which it historically deemed so great a sin that those performing them were automatically excommunicated.
The 79-year-old Argentine has made a more inclusive and forgiving church a hallmark of his papacy.
More than 20 million pilgrims made the trip to Rome during the Holy Year of Mercy, which ended on Sunday.