- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is praising Pope Francis’s declaration allowing rank-and-file priests to absolve women who’ve had abortions, though priests in the diocese have long had that power.

Bishop Thomas Tobin said in a statement that the pope’s directive reminds those who’ve had abortions that they can be forgiven and “make a new beginning.”

He says in the Providence Diocese, like in many dioceses, priests have had the power to forgive abortion for many years.

Francis said in a letter published Tuesday that he was allowing priests to grant absolution during the Holy Year of Mercy he has proclaimed.

The Roman Catholic Church says a bishop should grant forgiveness for an abortion. But many bishops in the United States give priests this power.

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