Pope Francis: 'Now is the Time to Unleash the Creativity of Mercy'

Pope Francis ended the Jubilee of Mercy with an apostolic letter  exhorting all to "devise specific and responsible ways of practicing charity and the works of mercy," as "mercy is inclusive and tends to expand in a way that knows no limits."

The pontiff also extended indefinitely the ability for a woman to confess the sin of abortion to a priest instead of a bishop, and allowed confessions to be heard within the Society of Saint Pius X, an orthodox sect that Pope Benedict XVI declared was not canonical therefore lacked ministerial legitimacy. Francis had allowed both circumstances of confession and absolution during the yearlong jubilee.

The absolution of the sin of abortion is tied to lifting the excommunication that may be levied on procuring an abortion. Canon Law states that a bishop must lift the excommunication unless the power is delegated to priests; in the United States bishops have given priests the power to lift the excommunication for the past three decades.

"I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life," the pope wrote. "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."

Francis noted the importance of giving "a word of comfort and strength to our families" as "the journey of life that leads a man and a woman to meet one other, to love one another and to promise mutual fidelity before God, is often interrupted by suffering, betrayal and loneliness."

"We have to remember each of us carries the richness and the burdens of our personal history; this is what makes us different from everyone else. Our life, with its joys and sorrows, is something unique and unrepeatable that takes place under the merciful gaze of God," he continued. "This demands, especially of priests, a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment, so that everyone, none excluded, can feel accepted by God, participate actively in the life of the community and be part of that People of God which journeys tirelessly towards the fullness of his kingdom of justice, love, forgiveness and mercy."

The Jubilee of Mercy began on Dec. 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and concluded on Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King.

Pope Francis lauded "true champions of charity who show constant solidarity with the poor and the unhappy" from day to day, emphasizing that "now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace."