WASHINGTON - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis' November 20 apostolic letter "Misericordia et Misera" ("Mercy and Misery"). In his letter, Pope Francis extended the Year of Mercy provision granting priests worldwide a faculty related to the sin of abortion: "Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God's forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion." Cardinal Dolan responded with gratitude in the following statement:
I express heartfelt appreciation for the Holy Father's continued proclamation of God's mercy worldwide, clearing the path to reconciliation and healing for all who have been involved in abortion.
Pope Francis wrote: "I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father" (Misericordia et Misera, 12).
The Holy Father reminds us that God, the Father of Mercies, welcomes all those who are repentant, seeking mercy and peace after involvement in abortion — and that an experience of God's great mercy gives rise to joy.
For many years in the United States, most bishops have granted their priests this faculty. In addition to sacramental confession, the Church offers confidential and compassionate help through diocesan Project Rachel ministries.
Since 1984, dedicated ministries throughout the nation have accompanied those seeking forgiveness, healing, and peace after losing a child to abortion. Wherever a person might be in their healing journey, Project Rachel offers free, confidential help.