Pope Francis Tells Priests They Can Forgive Women Who Have Abortions

In a surprise letter to Catholic priests around the world, Pope Francis is allowing them to forgive women who have had abortions.

Pope Francis will give all priests discretion to formally forgive women who have had abortions.

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In a letter to all priests, published by The Vatican, Pope Francis announced the new plan.

From December 8 to November 26, during the Holy Year or “Jubilee” on the theme of mercy, all priests can forgive those that have had the procedure and those that have performed it.

In the letter, he described the "existential and moral ordeal" faced by women who have terminated pregnancies and said he had "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision."

In Catholic teachings, abortion is such a grave sin that those who perform it or get the procedure can face excommunication. Usually only designated clergy and missionaries can formally forgive abortions.

This comes as the first South American-born Pope in 1,300 years looks to make the church more inclusive and open.

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In the past, the Church has struggled in accepting homosexuals, while Francis has pushed for acceptance of everyone, including gays.

In 2013, he said: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge… it is not right to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

The Pope has also blasted the Church’s decadent behavior and has pushed for more redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor.

Later this month, Pope Francis will make his first trip to the United States.

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