On Monday 21 November, 2016 Pope Francis indefinitely extended the power of priests to forgive women who have abortions, permanently extending the gesture he made during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The pope’s move allows priests to forgive women who have had abortions, and any other people involved in the process.

Pope Frances who has made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a characteristic of his papacy, made the announcement in a document known as an “apostolic letter”.

Francis had already temporarily granted the power to all priests to give absolution during the Holy Year, but the solemn tone of his words in Monday’s letter suggested that the change would last for at least the rest of his papacy.

“Not only is this a change in Church policy, it changes Church law” said Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College. “I think it is very significant in the contest of Pope Francis’ theme of his pontificate, which is going to go down as the pontificate of mercy….he sees mercy as absolutely the key”.