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Pope Francis is allowing all priests to absolve women of the “grave sin” of abortion.  This decision indefinitely extends the special permission he had granted for the duration of the just-ended Holy Year of Mercy.

On Monday, the Apostolic Letter written by Pope Francis was made public by the Vatican.  The letter read that “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.

However he also wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”  Due to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, it had long put the matter of granting forgiveness for it in the hands of a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate that to a priest who was the expert in such situations.

Francis began allowing all rank-and-file priests to grant absolution for an abortion in 2015 for the duration of the Holy Year, which ran from Dec. 8, 2015 through Nov. 20, 2016.  Francis is further applying his vision of a merciful church to those women who, as he has written in the past, felt they had no choice but to make “this agonizing and painful decision.”

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