(USA TODAY) -- Pope Francis is allowing Catholic priests to absolve the “horrendous crime” of abortion, extending special permission he granted clerics last year for the Holy Year of Mercy.
“I want to insist as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin because it puts an end to an innocent life,” the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.
He added: “I can and I 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.”
The pope also opposed the death penalty, saying, “There can’t be a true punishment that comes without hope. If a penalty doesn’t have hope, it’s not a Christian penalty, it’s not human.”
He also expressed his unease with life imprisonment, which he called a “sort of hidden death penalty.”
In the Catholic Church, a jubilee — or a holy year — is a religious event that involves the forgiveness of sins, as well as reconciliation. Holy doors were opened at cathedrals around the world during the 12-month jubilee, which called on Catholics to reflect on the theme of mercy.
The previous jubilee was in 2000, under St. John Paul II. The event is usually marked every 25 years but the pope has the power to call an “extraordinary” jubilee.
The Holy Year of Mercy concluded on Sunday, when the pope shut the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
The pope said although the year has ended, “the doors of mercy of our heart continues to remain open.”
Contributing: Religion News Service