From now on, mothers seeking pardon for abortion will no longer have to seek the intervention of bishops.

In a move that could cause a real storm in the Vatican, Pope Francis declared that even ordinary Catholic priests could forgive the sin of abortion. Abortion is considered such a grave sin in the Vatican that penitence for this sin is treated differently from the usual way that sins are pardoned. While sins in general are pardonable by any priest through confession, women seeking pardon for abortion have had to visit a bishop to obtain pardon. Now, the Pope’s announcement will extend this power to ordinary priests too.

This announcement came at the conclusion of the Catholic Year of Mercy which began last December and was formally concluded last Sunday. With this decision, the pope hopes that the message of unconditional mercy is received by everybody, especially because he believes that there is no sin that God cannot forgive.

The church under Pope Francis is already seeing deep differences between Church leaders, some of whom are supportive of the revolutionary Pope’s liberal views, while traditionalist leaders feel that the Pope’s actions are too radical. Now this move may possibly increase this estrangement between conservative leaders and a progressing Vatican. These divides are especially noticeable in America, where Pope Francis’ actions have not been received so well by the more conservative Catholic population of America.

However, Pope Francis has reaffirmed that abortion is still a grave sin because it amounts to murder. He clarified that his decision to allow priests to pardon sin is only a move to extend the gift of mercy to everyone, especially mothers who are going through the pain and guilt of having lost their child. The Pope feels that it’s the Church’s duty to comfort and give hope to those who are hurt rather than increase their agony.

Although the Pope warns that abortion is an extremely grave sin, he also asserts that God’s forgiveness is stronger than any sin. This decision will remove any “obstacle” that may come to reconciliation between God and sinner.

This right, which was earlier restricted to bishops will ensure that priests can now take an independent decision to pardon abortion. Bishops could, however, delegate a priest to pardon abortion. In fact, the bishops of some dioceses have already allowed their priests to forgive abortions. The difference that the Popes decision will make is that priests will no longer need to seek permission from a higher authority.

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