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Pope extends special Year of Mercy provisions on confession


  • Pope Francis presents his apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) to a woman in a wheelchair at the conclusion of the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis presents his apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) to family members from the United States at the conclusion of the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis presents his apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) to nuns from Mexico and South Korea at the conclusion of the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Pope Francis signs an apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) after celebrating the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • A mosaic of St. Augustine's sermon about Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery, top, is seen at St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Nov. 21. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
  • A mosaic of St. Augustine's sermon about Jesus' encounter with the woman caught in adultery is seen at the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington Nov. 21. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Acknowledging and sharing God's mercy is a permanent part of the Christian life, so initiatives undertaken during the special Year of Mercy must continue, Pope Francis said.

"Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the church," the pope wrote in an apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," ("Mercy and Misery"), which he signed Nov. 20 at the end of the Year of Mercy. The Vatican released the text the next day.

The Catholic Church's focus on God's mercy must continue with individual acts of kindness, assistance to the poor and, particularly, with encouraging Catholics to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and making it easier for them to do so, the pope wrote.

In his letter, Pope Francis said he formally was giving all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion. While many bishops around the world, and almost all bishops in the United States, routinely grant that faculty to all their priests, Pope Francis had made it universal during the Holy Year.

According to canon law, procuring an abortion brings automatic excommunication to those who know of the penalty, but procure the abortion anyway. Without formal permission, priests had been required to refer the case to their bishops before the excommunication could be lifted and sacramental absolution could be granted to a woman who had an abortion or those directly involved in the procedure.

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