Nigerian Catholic priests now have more reasons to smile as Pope Francis on Monday issued a decree giving all Roman Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion, a power that was previously reserved for bishops or special confessors.
The pope made the announcement through a document known as an “apostolic letter” after Sunday’s close of the Church’s “Holy Year of Mercy”.
“I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended,” he declared.
The announcement reiterated the Holy Father’s earlier statement that abortion is a sin that results in the loss of human life but added that God is a powerful forgiver who does not shun away any repentant heart.
But he said Monday that the end of the special year did not mean the end of mercy itself, and so-called sinners must be given a chance to repent. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin.
“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 seeking to be reconciled with the Father,” Francis said in the letter.
“May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.” he added
The forgiveness stretches not only to women who have abortions but also to those who carry them out or are involved in any way.
Pope Francis has warmed himself into the hearts of many people since he became pope. Just last year, he gave all priests the special power of “sacramental absolution” for abortion during the Holy Year, from December 8 to November 20, 2016.