The Vatican announced Tuesday that Pope Francis will allow Roman Catholic priests to absolve women seeking forgiveness for an abortion with a “sincere heart” during the Holy Year of Mercy.
Abortion has long been considered a grave sin in the Catholic faith, but according to a statement, the pontiff said he is “well aware of the pressure” facing women who get abortions.
Pope Francis said:
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. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. 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.
This a sharp departure from Catholic doctrine but is in line with the inclusive message of the holy year, which was announced in March.
The pontiff implored his priests to grant absolution with “genuine welcome” but also to convey the “gravity of the sin committed.”
“May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence,” according to the Vatican’s statement.
Before this announcement, a Catholic woman seeking the sacrament of forgiveness for an abortion had to go to a special priest selected by her diocese’s bishop instead of confessing to her local parish priest, according to the Associated Press..
This post has been updated.