In a moving letter by Pope Francis released last week, the world leader addressed God’s desire that all persons experience the mercy of God in their lives. To draw attention to the mercy of God, and call all believers to a renewed quest for forgiveness and peace by seeking God’s mercy, the pope has called for a “Jubilee of Mercy” – a celebration to take place from December 8 of this year until November 20, 2016. In the April announcement of the upcoming Year of Mercy, the pope cited Psalms 25:6: Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
In last week’s letter, Pope Francis singled out two groups particularly in need of a renewed awareness of God’s mercy, including women who have procured abortions. “One of the serious problems of our time,” he said, “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.”
Pope Francis has been a champion of human Life from long before the commencement of his papacy. As a cardinal, Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) said that separating the people of God from salvation is hypocrisy, pointing to the courage of unwed mothers who chose Life in the face of condemnation and judgment.
Likewise, with this pastoral concern for the well-being of individuals, Pope Francis noted in last week’s letter that abortions are often procured by those with “a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails.” Others, he says, “although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe 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,” Pope Francis continues in his gentle way, calling attention to the real-life testimonies that have given the issue a face. “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.”
In other words, Pope Francis acknowledges, as so many other Pro-Life leaders have, that only in acknowledging the gravity and tragedy of abortion can those affected by the choice truly find healing. And healing is precisely the object of the Jubilee of Mercy. In singling out those affected by abortion in his exhortation about mercy, the pope underscores the profound and all-encompassing damage that abortion has inflicted on modern society as a whole, and abortion’s impact on the hearts of individual men, women, and children, all affected in their own way by the decision.
Read the full letter and context of the pope’s remarks on abortion and mercy here.