The Jubilee of Mercy officially ended last Sunday with the closing of the “holy door” at St. Peter’s Basilica. This door will be reopened at the beginning of the ordinary 2025 Jubilee. At the end of the Jubilee, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter (Misericordia et misera), which amends substantially the rigidity of the pastoral practice of the Roman Church on abortion.
From now on, in fact, as written in paragraph 12 of the document signed by the Pope on Sunday that was made public only Monday, “all priests, by virtue of their ministry” will have “the power to absolve those who have provided to others the sin of abortion.” Therefore, not only women who choose to terminate the pregnancy, but also doctors, nurses and all the social and health care personnel involved. Until Monday, all were liable to automatic excommunication (latae sententiae), and could only be absolved by a bishop or a priest specifically appointed by the bishop himself.
It is a measure that does not erase the “sin of abortion” (“abortion is a grave sin, because it puts an end to an innocent life,” Francis points out). There is no doctrinal change, but it introduces a deep pastoral and legal update. The change is so significant that the Vatican will change the Code of Canon law, explains Msgr. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization. Canon law “is a set of laws, every time the Pope issues a provision amending the postulates of the law, the article about that specific provision needs to be changed” (specifically canon 1398: “a person who procures an abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae”).