It fits his pastoral approach to the papacy
Pope Francis announced Tuesday that all priests will have the authority to absolve the Catholic sin of abortion during the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin Dec. 8.
It is a bold move, and a spiritual one. Pope Francis is not addressing politicians. He is providing guidance to his Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization as he prepares the Catholic Church for a year of intentional mercy designed to foster spiritual renewal.
Pope Francis’ offer is also not new — it widens a common Catholic practice. Traditionally bishops are the ones who have the authority to grant forgiveness for certain grave sins like abortion, and they have in the past also shared that power with priests. As the top bishop, the Bishop of Rome, Francis is making that practice as wide as possible during the Jubilee Year.
Forgiving abortion is not the same as saying abortion is now acceptable: forgiveness implies a turning of heart, with the goal of change. Pope Francis made this clear in his papal bull announcing the Jubilee Year in April. “This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When faced with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives,” he wrote. “To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests.”
The Vatican made this clear again Tuesday after the Pope’s letter was announced. “Forgiveness of the sin of abortion does not condone abortion nor minimize its grave effects,” Father Thomas Rosica, the Vatican’s English-language press assistant, explained to reporters in an email. “The fact that this statement is coming from the Pope and in such a moving, pastoral way, is more evidence of the great pastoral approach and concern of Pope Francis.”
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