Pope Francis will allow priests to formally pardon women who have had abortions and seek forgiveness during the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming Holy Year, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
"I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal," he said. "May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence."
The pontiff said he has met a number of women who “bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” adding, “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented.”
The Holy Year will begin on Dec. 8, 2015, and end on Nov. 20, 2016. It will be the 29th Holy Year in the church since the tradition started more than 700 years ago.
Previously women would have to seek forgiveness from a bishop or the pope himself in order to avoid being excommunicated from the church.