All priests now have the permanent right to forgive abortions following a recent declaration by Pope Francis. The remarks were made at the end of of the Catholic Church’s jubilee year during which he had temporarily granted priests the power to forgive abortions.

Pope Francis reinstated in an Apostolic letter that abortion is a “grave sin” which ended “innocent life” but continued to say that “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled”.

“Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the church; it constitutes her very existence.

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

A Vatican spokesman confirmed that the Church’s position on the morality of abortion had not changed but that the power given to priests meant God’s mercy could cover all sin.