Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel. He has made mercy a signature theme of his pontificate.


Associated Press


Francis X. Rocca

Francis X. Rocca
The Wall Street Journal



[email protected]

Updated Sept. 1, 2015 11:50 a.m. ET


ROME— Pope Francis, during a jubilee “year of mercy” starting Dec. 8, will make it easier for the Roman Catholic Church to forgive women for having had abortions. In a letter issued by the Vatican on Tuesday, the pope said he would grant all Catholic priests temporary authority to “absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Under church law, anyone who willingly participates in an abortion—including the pregnant woman, the abortion provider and anyone who assists in the process—incurs automatic excommunication, which normally can only be lifted by the local bishop. Under Pope Francis’ concession, any priest will be able to exercise this power during the year of mercy, which ends Nov. 20, 2016. In the same letter, the pope expressed compassion for “women who have resorted to abortion. 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.” Pope Francis has made mercy a signature theme of his pontificate, and has also called for it to be applied to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, who are forbidden by church law from receiving Communion. In October in Rome, the second session of a two-part meeting of bishops on family questions will consider a proposal to make it easier for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion. Write to Francis X. Rocca at [email protected]

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