- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pope Francis said Tuesday that priests will be allowed to absolve women who have had abortions if they ask for forgiveness with a “contrite heart” as part of the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8.

In the past, the Catholic Church, which sees abortion as a grave sin, would excommunicate women who had abortions.

But the pope emphasized in a Vatican letter he wrote on Tuesday that priests would be able to absolve the sin of abortion.

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father,” Francis wrote. “For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

The pontiff addressed his letter “To My Venerable Brother,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

“The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails,” Francis wrote. “Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”

The Holy Year of Mercy concludes on Nov. 20, 2016. During that time, the church will seek to bring sinners back to the fold through love, mercy and forgiveness — “Merciful Like the Father,” as the jubilee’s motto says.

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