Pope Francis is allowing all priests to absolve the “grave sin” of abortion, extending special permission he had granted them for the Holy Year of Mercy.

Francis wrote in Misericordia et Misera, an apostolic letter con­cluding the Year of Mercy, that “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach”, while reiterating that “abortion is a grave sin”.

In his letter, Pope Francis for­m­­ally gave all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to hav­ing pro­c­ured an abortion. Many bishops around the world, especially in the United States, rout­inely grant that faculty to all their priests. But without formal perm­ission, priests had been required to con­s­ult their bishops before granting absolution to a woman who had an abortion or those dir­­ectly involved in the procedure.

“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of proc­ured abortion,” he wrote. “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mer­cy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart . . . May every priest be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey.”

In the letter, released on Monday, the Pope also extended his Jubilee Year decree that allowed SSPX priests to hear valid confessions. “For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Cathol­ic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year.”

The Pope also created a World Day of the Poor to be held a week before the feast of Christ the King and reminded Catholics that mercy must last a lifetime.

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