It’s the Holy Year of Mercy in the Catholic world, and the remarkably chill Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican will mark the occasion by sending out “missionaries of mercy” who will pardon women for having had abortions and doctors for performing them. Abortion, which is considered a mortal sin, can still result in excommunication from the Catholic church.
Vatican Archbishop and President of the Pontifical Academy for Life Rino Fisichella announced the move at a press conference this week. The missionaries will be specially appointed, and empowered to pardon people for all kinds of usually unforgivable sins; Fischiella said it should be seen as “a concrete sign that a priest must be a man of mercy and close to all.”
This appears to be the first time a pope has ordered pardons for abortion, although it clearly doesn’t mean Francis is, in any sense of the word, pro-choice: in January of last year, he called abortion “a horror” and “frightful.” In a fairly remarkable document called a “bull of indiction,” he outlined the other kinds of things the Vatican will be doling out mercy for this year. Abortion isn’t specifically mentioned, but criminal organizations are. Pope Francis is Argentinian; the country is plagued by organized crime and brutal drug cartels, and in the document, he begs criminals of all stripes to change their ways:
May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God. I particularly have in mind men and women belonging to criminal organizations of any kind. For their own good, I beg them to change their lives. I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner. Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and that, in comparison with money, anything else is devoid of value or dignity. This is nothing but an illusion! We cannot take money with us into the life beyond. Money does not bring us happiness. Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal. Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.
The Pope also specifically called for repentance from anyone who “either perpetrate[s] or participate[s] in corruption,” writing, “This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life.” He’s also reportedly considering celebrating mass with prisoners during the Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis pictured in May 2015. Photo via AP Images
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