Pope Francis speaks with young people in a youth centre dedicated to Pope John Paul II during his visit to Sarajevo, on June 6, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Dado Ruvic *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-ABUSE, originally transmitted on June 10, 2015.

Pope Francis asks priests to forgive the sin of abortion

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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Tuesday (Sept. 1) told priests to forgive repentant women who have had an abortion.

In a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the pontiff urges priests to express “words of genuine welcome” to repentant women who have undergone abortions, “combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed.” He tied his decision to the yearlong jubilee celebration of Catholic faith, which begins in December.

“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 pope said in a letter  addressed to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council.

The Catholic Church deems abortion a “moral evil” and “gravely contrary to the moral law.” A person who cooperates in an abortion should be excommunicated under canon law, although that person can be welcomed back into the church if the person is truly repentant and asks for forgiveness.

While the papal letter does not change church doctrine, it brings to the fore an issue Francis has talked little about during his papacy. In writing to Fisichella, the pope addressed “the tragedy of abortion” and said some people do not realize the “extreme harm” caused by terminating a pregnancy.

Francis also turned at length to women who believe they have no other option but to go through with an 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,” the pope wrote. “I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.”

A person who has confessed “with a sincere heart” and is repentant cannot be denied forgiveness, the pope said.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, assistant to the Vatican press office, said the pope’s statement showed a pastoral approach to abortion.

“Many bishops have granted priests permission to forgive the sin,” he said. “The fact that this statement is coming from the pope and in such a moving, pastoral way is more evidence of the great pastoral approach and concern of Pope Francis.”

The letter is the latest effort from the pope to change the culture of the church to make it more merciful. In August, Francis issued a powerful call for the church to embrace Catholics who have divorced and remarried, telling a gathering at the Vatican that such couples “are not excommunicated, and they absolutely must not be treated that way!”

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2 comments

  1. When this false person states “I have decided” then he has just placed himself above GOD which is evident that it is a false religion. GOD is the only one who can forgive sin and HE will without having to invoke mary which in and of itself is heretical. By stating that the so called priests can forgive sins is once again placing a man above GOD and GOD alone is the only one who can forgive sins, remember what was said to JESUS when HE forgave the sins of the man lowered through the roof and the Pharisees threw a fit?

    • Actually, if you read the letter he does not put himself above God. By the way something to ponder. You exact criticism was leveled at Jesus, Jesus’ disciples, and his followers down the ages. We who follow Christ will always get attacked for advocating forgiveness and reconciliation with sinners. Jesus’ way of love is not for the moralists and why Paul wrote in Romans the law worshipers are most dangerous to the Christ followers. Here is the excepts from the letter where doesn’t do what you say he does. He condemns the sin and looks at the effects of the sinner and welcomes back the repentant sinner in the name of Jesus. (Yes, pretty much the Gospel of Jesus)

      “One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. …

      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. “

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