Pope Francis extends Catholic priests' power to forgive abortion
By Tim Hume
, Cristiana Moisescu and Daniel Burke, CNN
Updated 2046 GMT (0446 HKT) November 21, 2016
Pope Francis extends Catholic priests' right to forgive abortion 00:59
has extended indefinitely the power of Catholic priests to forgive abortions, making the announcement in an apostolic letter released Monday.
It continues a special dispensation granted last year for the duration of the Year of Mercy -- which finished Sunday -- which gave all priests, rather than just bishops and specially designated confessors, the power to absolve the sin of abortion.
While the practical effect of Francis' announcement remains unclear, it draws attention to the prevailing theme of his papacy: That the doors of the Church must remain open, just as God's forgiveness and mercy extend to all those who repent from sin.
That said, the Catholic Church's stance on abortion has not changed -- it is still viewed as a "grave sin." But it makes it easier for women who have had abortions to be absolved for their actions, and rejoin the church.
"I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life," the Pope's letter states.