In his online media event with groups of Americans in three cities earlier this week, Pope Francis congratulated a single mother on her decision to give birth to two daughters, telling her to hold her head high and not be ashamed.
The exchange took place during a video link-up on Monday with three different U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, and McAllen, Texas. The virtual audience was arranged by ABC News.
A video of Pope Francis’ encounter with 31-year-old Rosemary Farfan, a single mother of daughters Alyssa, 11, and Celeste, 8, was released on Tuesday.
Farfan told ABC News that she and her daughters had stayed at Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children until June. The shelter, a program of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, had helped the family find an apartment and get back on their feet.
“It hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve made some mistakes as a person, as a mother,” she told the Pope amidst tears.
“I’ve felt guilty at times and ashamed. … But every day, I try and I hope and I pray.”
Pope Francis thanked her, and told her he knew “it’s not easy” to be a single mother.
“I have to tell you something. You are a courageous woman because you brought your daughters into the world. You could have killed them in the womb but you respected life.”
“I know that people can sometimes look askance at you,” he said. “You’re a brave woman because you’re capable of bringing these two daughters into the world. … You respected the life you were carrying inside you and God is going to reward you for that and He does reward for you for that. Don’t be ashamed. … I congratulate you.”
On Tuesday, the Pope announced that all Catholic priests in the Church will have the faculty of granting absolution to women who have had abortions, as a special concession for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In his letter, Francis reiterated the gravity of the sin of abortion, but said he is “well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.” He then added:
I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father.
ABC News announced that different parts of Pope Francis’ video-link up would be released each day until Friday, when the full encounter will air on a one-hour special edition of ABC News’ 20/20 at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.