Pope gives priests power to forgive abortions
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Pope Francis is giving Catholic priests the power to forgive abortions. 

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"I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” he wrote in a letter made public on Monday. 

“In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father."

Francis called on priests to be “a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”

"I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion," he added in the letter.

Abortion has long been considered a "moral evil" by the church, and those who obtained one could be automatically excommunicated, unless they were forgiven by a bishop or special confessor.

Francis announced last year that priests around the world could forgive "the sin of abortion" for the duration of the church's Year of Mercy, which ended on Sunday.

Francis's announcement on Monday means priests may not forgive abortions perpetually.

Jessie Hellmann contributed to this report, which was updated at 8:05 a.m.