Pope Francis has restated that “abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life” but “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 pontiff extended indefinitely to all Roman Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion.
Francis made the announcement in a document known as an “apostolic letter” after the close of the Church’s “Holy Year of Mercy” on Sunday (November 21).
The Church teaches that abortion is such a serious sin that those who procure or perform it bring automatic excommunication on themselves.
“The pope is not at all turning back on important issues of faith, for example, he defines abortion as a sin,” said Giovanna Chirri, Ansa journalist. “But the way this [sin] is looked at changes. He [the pope] says, in the Bible God is so full of mercy that no priest, no law, can be held up against a sinner if God decides to pardon them. This is something quite serious.”
Francis has made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a characteristic of his papacy.
Earlier in his papacy Francis issued guidelines on family life. He called for the Church to be less strict and more compassionate to those he describes as being in “irregular” situations, such as gay people, co-habiting couples and divorcees.
“If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?,” he said.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics said the Church should have the courage to change.
“Apostolic courage brings life and does not make our Christian life a museum of memories,” said the pope.
Pope Francis, is known for being a champion of the poor and for his message of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.