Pope to give priests power to absolve women who have had abortions

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has announced that he will allow Catholic priests to absolve women who seek forgiveness for having had abortions.

During the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, the pope will “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,” he said in a letter released Tuesday.

Previously, forgiveness could only be granted by senior church figures.

The pope wrote of women who have had abortions, “I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. 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.”

“The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” he said.

The Holy Year runs through Nov. 20, 2016. In announcing it, the pope said the point was for the church to “make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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