Pontiff allows all priests to absolve ‘grave sin’ of abortion
VATICANCITY— Pope Francis told Catholics worldwide he is allowing all priests to absolve the faithful of abortion — women and health workers alike — even while emphasizing that it is a grave sin in the eyes of the church to “end an innocent life.”
In an Apostolic Letter made public Monday, Francis said he was extending indefinitely the special permission he had granted to all rank-and-file priests during the just ended Holy Year of Mercy.
“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, the pope wrote in the 10-page letter, signed Sunday, the day the Holy Year ended. But, he added: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.“
Because the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, absolution had been a matter for a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession or delegate it to a priest considered an expert in such situations, a potentially intimidating scenario for many of the faithful.
In his letter, the pope appeared to acknowledge that. “Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness,” he wrote, “I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”
A top Vatican official, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, said Monday that the pope’s words applied to all those involved in an abortion — “from the women ... to the doctor and whoever supports this procedure.” The pope is “absolutely not” lessening the gravity of the sin of abortion, he added.
A boy walks Monday through the ruins of a market that was gutted overnight by a fire in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville where hundreds of poor vendors sell vegetables, clothes and other wares.