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Kenyan priests ‘yet to receive’ Pope’s abortion decree

The Catholic Church in Kenya has said it is yet to get official communication on the papal decree to extend the power of priests to forgive abortions.

On Monday, Pope Francis extended the special dispensation he granted last year for the duration of the Year of Mercy, making permanent a temporary measure meant for the Vatican’s jubilee.

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) chairman, Bishop Philip Anyolo, however, told the Daily Nation on phone that he was not aware of the extension and was waiting for official communication.

“I am yet to get that information but, as soon as I do, I will let you know,” said Bishop Anyolo.

The primate, however, said he was aware of the temporary powers given to priests during the Year of Mercy — a period during which believers receive special clemency for their sins, and which ended on Sunday.


It was during this time that the Pope said priests would be authorised to forgive the “sin of abortion”.

“Usually, such cases are preserved by the bishops, who can then give permission to the priests,” explained Bishop Anyolo.

At the time the Pope said “The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented,” expressing sympathy for women who had been through the “agonising and painful” decision to terminate their pregnancy.

In Kenya, abortion is largely prohibited and the Constitution permits it only to save a woman’s life.

As he brought the Jubilee to an end by closing the bronze-panelled Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City, the 79-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church gave an interview in which he slammed abortion as “a horrendous crime”.

In an apostolic letter released on Monday, the Pope said: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”


But the Argentine Pontiff added that the end of the special year did not mean the end of mercy itself and the so-called sinners must be given a chance to repent.

“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,” the letter stated.”

It added: “May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation. I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.”

The forgiveness stretches not only to women who have abortion but those who carry them out or are involved in any way.

The Catholic Church has long held that abortion is a grave “moral evil”, with the church’s strong position on the issue driving many Catholic pro-life groups.