18 Aug 2011

Forgiveness for abortion promised at youth festival

6:47 am on 18 August 2011

The Vatican has granted priests the right to forgive the sin of abortion when hearing the confessions at the World Youth Day event in Spain this week.

Termination of pregnancy is a sin punishable by excommunication under Church law.

WYD festival pilgrims will attend a mass confession in the presence of Pope Benedict on Saturday in central Madrid.

"This (concession) is to make it easier for the faithful who attend the World Youth Day celebrations to obtain the fruits of divine grace," the Madrid archdiocese said in a statement on its website.

Some 200 portable confessional cabins have been erected in Retiro Park where hundreds of priests will take confessions in different languages from the pilgrims who have travelled to Spain from around the world.

Pope Benedict will sit in one of the booths on Saturday morning to hear confessions from three visitors, before conducting a mass with up to 6000 seminarians.

He will arrive in madrid on Thursday for a four-day visit culminating in a mass on Sunday in the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome. Over two million people are expected to attend.