Pope Francis has allowed all Roman Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion, a power previously reserved for bishops or special confessors.
Francis, who has made a more inclusive and forgiving church a characteristic of his papacy, made the announcement on Monday in a document known as an "apostolic letter" after Sunday's close of the Catholic Church's "Holy Year of Mercy".
He said he wanted to "restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life."
The church has condemned abortion as a "moral evil" since the 1st century, deemed worthy of automatic excommunication, applicable also to partners who support abortion decisions and medical staff involved in the procedure.
The decision is another example of Francis' readiness to apply flexibility when it comes to rules. He has often said that he prefers mercy to doctrinarian rigidity, a stance that has put him at loggerheads with conservatives.
In his Apostolic Letter, Francis also prolonged an outreach gesture to the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a controversial renegade group, that was also meant to last only for the duration of the Jubilee of Mercy.
The SSPX is an ultra-traditionalist community that was expelled from the Catholic Church after failing to recognise 1960s church reforms such as the abolition of Latin mass and steps to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. It is often accused of anti-Semitism.
Saying he confided "in the good will" of SSPX priests to return to the fold, the Pope said they will continue to be entitled to hand out absolutions, just like ordinary Catholic prelates, even after the jubilee's end.