MADRID, Spain, August 16, 2011 ( – The Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has granted all of the 2,000 priests attending World Youth Day this week the special power to the lift the excommunication and to grant absolution in confession to those who have committed the sin of abortion.

According to the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law, any person who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Church (can. 1398).  This penalty – the worst penalty there is under canon law – can only be lifted by the pope and bishops, as well as priests who have been given special permission by a bishop.

“Normally, only certain priests have the power to lift such an excommunication, but the local diocese has decided to give all the priests taking confession at the event this power,” said the pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi.


Priests hearing confessions at World Youth Day, however, will be granted special permission to deal with such cases from August 16-22.

The archdiocese said they hope that “all the faithful who attend the celebrations of World Youth Day can more easily access the fruits of divine grace, which opens the door to a new life for them,” according to EWTN News.

Madrid has been labeled the “abortion Mecca” of Europe by local pro-life leaders because of the skyrocketing rate of abortions, which grew from 51,000 in 1996 to 120,000 in 2007.  As many as 1 out of 5 of its pregnancies now end in abortion.

Last July, the country’s socialist government implemented a new abortion law allowing the deadly procedure on-demand for the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.