What we have learned from Pope Francis's apostolic letter concluding Year of Mercy

1. Priests’ permission to absolve the ‘grave sin’ of abortion has been extended

“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. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”

2. SSPX priests can continue hearing confessions

“For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins. For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.”

3. Mercy must last a lifetime, not just a year

“In the sacramental life, mercy is granted us in abundance. It is not without significance that the Church mentions mercy explicitly in the formulae of the two ‘sacraments of healing’, namely, the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In the first, the formula of absolution reads: ‘God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace’.”

4. We must be active in implementing social justice

“The social character of mercy demands that we not simply stand by and do nothing. It requires us to banish indifference and hypocrisy.”

5. Introduction of the World Day of the Poor on 33rd Sunday

“I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor. This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy … It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel … This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelisation … which can renew the face of the Church.”

For the full text of the letter, go here.