Pope Francis Allows Priests to Forgive Women Who Had Abortions

And in a recent virtual audience with Americans, the pope applauded a single California mother for having her daughters.
7:08 | 09/02/15

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Transcript for Pope Francis Allows Priests to Forgive Women Who Had Abortions
I'm Rebecca Jarvis. Pope Francis making headlines addressing a highly charged issue, ? hat Tu owyomen at yth oweou and donwe't St irewe'rf lone ly ? ? we're lonely the S ine'enc in the mentom maybe now'? ? time to be alive ybe maw's north ti to me alibe ?Ve considers it a grave sin. It comes just 24 hours after our visit to the Vatican, our time with pope Francis. We quietly waited outside this door. Then our walk to the room where we're about to connect with hundreds of people across the country. A virtual conference. He knows our cameras are in three cities he won't be able to visit. We tell him we are honored. And we begin. We are curious if you have a message before your visit to the United States. He tells us, a big greeting to the catholic community in the United States and to everyone, all citizens in the U.S. And when 19 year old Marcus in Los Angeles asks the pope why his trip to the U.S. Is so important. It's a great honor to meet you. Reporter: The pope tells him, for me, it is very important to meet with you all, the citizens of the U.S., to have your joys, your sadness, like everyone else. There were questions and stories of adversity and survival, like that of rosemary, a single mother in Los Angeles who just moved her two daughters out of a shelter and into their first appearance. Thank you god for this day. Reporter: Her daughters struggled with life in the shelter, wishing for a life like other children. 11-year-old Alissa sharing her story with the pope. I wished that I could be one of them and just have a father. It's hard for me to hear my daughter tell me these things. She wished that it was different, that we were a family, a mom and dad. And we had a house to stay. Reporter: The pope responding with a personal message for them, praising rosemary for not choosing abortion, saying that she respected life in raising her daughters and that god would reward her for that. I'm leaving here today with some healing in my heart. That's for sure. Reporter: The pope's words to rosemary came just before he would announce forgiveness for abortion. But there is no change in church doctrine, the pope remaining firmly against it. His conversation with Americans, a historic first for American television, the pope hearing from others like Valerie, 17 from Chicago who struggled with a rare skin disorder. Music has always been something I was able to use to escape. All the bullying. Reporter: After her tears, an unexpected request from the pope. And that request in English. I would like to have you sing. May I ask of you to sing a song for me? Reporter: We were all unsure she would sing. Be courageous. Abortion, declaring a departure from church doctrine, saying women who've had abortions can be forgiven. David Muir headed to the Vatican for an exclusive interview with makes history. States, pope Francis is making global headlines when it comes forgiving women who've had an abortion. Declaring he will allow priests in this upcoming year of mercy absolve women. He says he is many women who feel they had no choice. I am well aware of the this decision. Todahey ticat van making it clear that the church does not condone it. It still quite like it from the pope. But this pope, after all, is already breaking the mold. Pope Francis is the first latin-american pope in the church's history, the first jesuit. An Argentine Yan prian priest who became the archbishop. He often speaks of poverty and openness. I would say for me, pope Francis is the pope of mercy, the pope of compassion and most of all, the pope of surprises. Reporter: Two years ago, pope Francis making headlines worldwide when he said to reporters, if someone is gay and searches for the lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? A statement that is a departure from pope Benedict who wrote that homosexual was a strong tenden tendency. The pope is a loving person, and having absolution allowed the priest to give absolution is extraordinary, but it's not, I'm not surprised at all. Reporter: But many American catholics point out today's decree is not as radical as it might seem. Since in the United States, some priests already have the authority to forgive abortion as a sin. Still, others say it is bold to send this global message to the church. There may be some catholics who feel that this is making abortion more permissible. This doesn't change the church's stance on abortion. It's basically being more merciful and compassionate. Reporter: Do you have a message for America before your visit? A parting message? The pope saying, I'm full of hope to meet you all, and that he's praying for all of the people of the United States. And then he asked Americans to pray for him. Gracias. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm David Muir. Don't miss 2020's exclusive report, pope Francis and the people, airing 10:00 on Friday right here on ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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