The Holy Year of Mercy — a Catholic tradition that begins Nov. 29 — offers special indulgences for believers’ sins.
“May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence,” Pope Francis said in his letter to the Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
The Pope’s decision to grant all priests the authority to absolve sins of abortion will not change Catholic doctrine, and will only be in place until the end of the Holy Year in Nov. 2016.
“The idea of a Holy Year is when we ask, ‘How do we invite people back in the Church who might have drifted away?” said Michael Lasky, pastor and campus minister at UNC Newman Catholic Student Center Parish.
The Holy Year typically only comes once every 25 to 50 years, with the most recent in 2000.
“Pope Francis is just pulling this one out of nowhere,” Lasky said. “Not nowhere — it’s somewhere in his heart — but he has seen so much of the suffering that people carry in the world and he’s saying, ‘Let’s bring everybody home.’”
Pope Francis said in his letter that women should be given an opportunity to repent.