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Pope Francis allows priests to forgive women who've had abortions

Pope Francis has allowed priests the "discretion to absolve the sin of abortion," the Vatican announced on Tuesday. In the Catholic Church, abortion is a serious sin and those that procure or perform it are automatically excommunicated. However, in the upcoming Holy Year, Francis will allow priests — and not just missionaries or the chief confessor of a diocese, as per traditional Church teachings — to consider absolving individuals who, "with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it."

"I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal," Francis said, adding he has "met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision." Francis went on suggest priests might "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 Holy Year begins December 8.