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During holy year, pope will let priests forgive women who had abortions

Pope Francis leaves St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in August. In a letter published Tuesday, he said, in part, "I have decided ... to concede 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." 

According to church teaching, abortion is a sin so grave that anyone who gets one or performs one is automatically excommunicated. Forgiveness was usually only given by senior church officials.