09/01/2015, 00.00
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Pope stresses Jubilee, God’s tenderness for women who had an abortion, Lefebvrians, prisoners, the sick

In a letter to Mgr Rino Fisichella, Pope Francis adds new criteria to traditional ones to receive indulgence. All priests can forgive the sin of abortion by preparing themselves to welcome sincerely the sinners. The sick and the lonely can accept “suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord”. The Jubilee year might bring amnesty, whilst a cell’s door might become a Holy Door. Through works of mercy, one can obtain plenary indulgence. The pontiff seeks reconciliation with the Society of St Pius X.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Vatican Press Office made public today a letter by Pope Francis to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

In it, the pontiff grants all priests special powers to absolve the sin of abortion, recognises the validity of absolution performed by the priests of the Society of St Pius X, gives plenary indulgence to the sick who cannot leave home or go to Mass, to prisoners whose cell’s door can symbolically represent the entrance in the Holy Door, and Jubilee indulgence to those who perform works of mercy, which is “the fruit of the very jubilee” without additional prayers, Masses or pilgrimages.

“It is indeed my wish,” the pope writes, “that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.”

To achieve this, he mentions the traditional way of obtaining a plenary indulgence (by going through of the Door of Mercy in Rome, in the diocesan cathedral or in established sanctuaries, through the sacrament of reconciliation; the communion; profession of faith; and praying in accordance with the pope’s intentions).

Forgiving abortion

His thoughts go to “those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door”. He grants “to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Usually this sin is forgiven only by priests appointed by diocesan bishops.

By authorising this, the pope hopes that “the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed."

Hardliners and moderates inside and outside the Church have often clashed over the issue of abortion and life. For the pope, the issue should be considered with a greater sense of mercy without denying the sin.

"One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe that they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father."

The Holy Door in prison

For prisoners, he hopes to see a "great amnesty" for those "who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society”.

He offers prisoners a special path through the Holy Door “to obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

The sick, the elderly and those who are alone can obtain the Jubilee Indulgence if they can accept “suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord”.

“Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence.“

Practicing works of mercy

Indulgence is available to those who perform works of corporal and spiritual mercy. “Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.”

Lastly, hoping that in “the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the [St Pius X] Fraternity,” Francis said that “those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach thee priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

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