Pope Francis makes his first trip to the United States later this month. During his visit, the first Latin-American pope will make stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
The pope will arrive in the U.S. for a five day visit on Sept. 22 at Joint Base Andrews in Washington. His arrival comes on the heels of several major announcements by the Roman Catholic Church that jolted followers around the world.
Pope Francis announced new rules this week that take effect in early December which will streamline the annulment process – making it quicker and easier for couples to obtain annulments after a divorce.
The pope also announced last week that priests will have new authority to forgive the sin of abortion, a change which will also start later this year. Traditionally, bishops have been able to grant forgiveness for abortion and other major sins, though priests have been allowed in some cases to grant forgiveness as well.
“In the United States that’s not necessarily a radical departure from the practice that is already in place and widespread,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Atlanta Catholic Archdiocese explained during an interview on “Closer Look.”
Gregory said American Catholics won’t see any big changes with this announcement.
“The emphasis isn’t to loosen the authority of the bishop, but to make sure that people knew that this was available from any priest.”
The new authority granted to priests to absolve the sin of abortion in the Catholic Church does not mean there has been any change in church doctrine.
“What this indicates is that this pope is continuing that path that he has started down to make mercy and compassion a touchstone of the church,” Gregory said. “I don’t see it any way as lessening the seriousness of abortion, but [instead as] making more available the compassion of the Church for those who find themselves in that situation."
Gregory also discussed Pope Francis' rock star status, young people and the church and more.
WABE's Rose Scott and Denis O'Hayer contributed to this report.