On the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, all the priests will be able to acquit women who have repented of having had an abortion. The revolution launched by the Pope in view of the Extraordinary Holy Year is contained in a letter to the president of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization, Monsignor Rino Fisichella. “The Jubilee – it says – has always constituted an opportunity for a large amnesty, intended to involve many people who, while deserving of punishment, have become aware of the injustice they have committed and sincerely want to fit again in society and offer their honest contribution”. In this sense, Francis urges priests to prepare for this “great task, knowing to combine words of genuine hospitality with a reflection that will help to understand the sin she has committed and to indicate a path towards genuine conversion, to come to grasp the true and generous forgiveness of the Father that renews everything with its presence”.
And, at any rate, it has been pointed out the Vatican spokesperson, Father Federico Lombardi, it does not mean minimizing intentional interruption of pregnancy, that continues to be a crime for Catholics. It is, rather, “a sign of extension of the manifestation of Church’s mercy in more accessible and available terms”. The priests, then, continued Lombardi, repeating the words of the Pontiff, “must understand the seriousness of this crime and to help people understand it as well while walking along a conversion path”. The Pope, according to the spokesman of the Holy See, “manifests his desire and his commitment for this extraordinary Jubilee to be lived with great confidence and hope by everyone”. And he does so “with some dispositions contained in a personal letter, concerning not only the usual conditions needed for indulgence during the jubilee year, but also additional considerations he makes on the extension of the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion to all priests, and so far, it was reserved to the bishop, who could delegate some priests”. This wishes to express “with a remarkable width the mercy of the Lord”, without removing, however, the necessity of a path made of understanding, repentance, and conversion. Besides, it is not a generalized extension, “but a measure connected to the Jubilee Year”.
Another important step concerns the reconciliation with the faithful from the Fraternity of St. Pius X, founded by schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre. In the same letter to Fisichella, Bergoglio has, in fact, established the validity of the absolution granted by priests to the community on the other side of the Alps. “This jubilee year of mercy does not exclude anyone” says the Holy Father Francis, clarifying that “from different parts, some Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined, however, with the discomfort of living in a pastorally difficult condition. I am confident that in the near future we will be able to find solutions to recover the full communion with the priests and the superiors of the Fraternity”. In the meantime, “driven by the need to react to the good of these faithful, for my own arrangement, I decree that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the priests of the Brotherhood of St. Pius X, will receive valid and licit absolution of their sins”.
Bergoglio has then, recalled that in history Jubilees have always represented the opportunity to grant forgiveness to many detainees. In addition to ensuring to all the prisoners the opportunity to obtain the plenary indulgence, another benefit of every Jubilee in their cells. “My thoughts – continues the Bishop of Rome – go to the prisoners, who are experiencing restriction of their freedom. To all of them shall come concretely the mercy of the Father who wants to stay close to those who need his forgiveness the most”. The Pope has expressed the desire to ensure a more comfortable path towards universal forgiveness of sins even for people who are not in prison, if they repentant and ask for confession. “To live and obtain indulgence, the faithful are called to undertake a short pilgrimage to the Holy Door, which is open in every Cathedral or in the churches established by the diocesan Bishop, and in the four papal basilicas of Rome, as a sign of deep desire for true conversion – he affirms -.Likewise, I dispose that in the shrines where the door of mercy has opened and in the churches that are traditionally linked to the Jubilee, indulgence can be obtained”.