neneos/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ROME) -- In a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Pope Francis on Tuesday decided to allow priests to absolve women who have had abortions.
"One of the serious problems of our time," the pope wrote, "is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life," he added.
"I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion," the letter continues. "I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal."
As part of the upcoming holy year, Pope Francis said that "the forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented."
"For this reason...I have decided...to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness of it."
The pope added that priests can offer absolution by "expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed."
ABC News(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Francis participated in a virtual audience today with Americans from around the country during an event hosted exclusively with ABC News.
The event was moderated from inside the Vatican by ABC News’ "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, as the pontiff engaged via satellite with individuals from three different groups: students at the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from a McAllen, Texas, church located near the U.S.-Mexico border and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.
The event will air in a one-hour special edition of ABC News’ "20/20" on Friday, Sept. 4 at 10 p.m. ET. In addition, the event will be posted in its entirety in both English and Spanish on ABCNews.com.
The event coincides with the pope’s upcoming visit to the United States, scheduled for later this month, when Francis is expected to travel to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia from Sept. 22 to Sept. 27.
The pope’s U.S. trip includes a meeting with President Obama at the White House, an address in front of a joint-meeting of Congress, an address at the U.N. General Assembly in New York and a "multi-religious service" at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
His trip will conclude in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families, a global event organized by the Catholic Church that focuses on strengthening family bonds. Event organizers expect up to two million people to attend the pope’s closing mass.
Only three other reigning popes have ever visited the United States: Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II, who traveled to the country seven different times, and Pope Benedict XVI, who visited in April 2008.
Born in Argentina, Francis, 78, is the first Latin American and first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church. He succeeded Benedict in 2013, and since then the pontiff has won wide acclaim for his modern views on religion, his hands-on work with the less-fortunate and his acceptance of the LGBT community.
On Left: 27 August image (before destruction): “Airbus DS, UNITAR-UNOSAT” On right: 31 August image (after destruction): “UrtheCast, UNITAR-UNOSAT”(PALMYRA, Syria) -- Confirmation from the United Nations on Monday that ISIS destroyed a historic site in Syria.
Satellite photos from the UN have confirmed ISIS detonated explosives in Palmyra on Sunday, destroying the Temple of Bel.
“We can confirm destruction of the main building of the Temple of Bel as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity,” said the UN's training and research agency Unitar.
The Temple of Bel is the most significant monument in Palmyra and one of the most significant in all of Syria.
ISIS has destroyed sites and items of historic importance recently including tombs and last week's destruction of a small temple.
iStock/Thinkstock(OTTAWA, Canada) -- Scott Walker said in an NBC interview published Sunday that the idea of building a wall along the U.S. border with Canada is a “legitimate issue” worth reviewing, when asked about the potential risk of terrorists using unpatrolled borders to cross into the United States undetected.
So what does Canada think of the idea of constructing a wall along the longest shared land border in the world?
A spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy responded to ABC News with this fact: “No terrorists have been successful in attacking the United States coming through the Canadian border.”
Christine Constantin, the spokesperson for embassy, points out that “all the terrorists responsible for 9/11 were in the United States with visas issued by the U.S. government.”
“The Canada-US Border is jointly managed through strong information sharing and intelligence cooperation between our two countries,” Constantine continued, listing off a laundry list of shared intelligence gathering techniques that includes automated visa information sharing and a shared log of non-citizens who cross along the shared U.S.- Canada border that stretches over 1,500 miles.
And in between the official entry border crossing points, Constantine said there are joint Canadian-US law enforcement teams that share intelligence across land and sea to snuff out any cross-border criminal activity that may occur.
Walker’s comments on the Canadian border came in response to a question from NBC News’ Chuck Todd, who asked Walker if the U.S. should consider building a wall along the northern border amid calls by some Republican presidential candidates to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico.
"Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire," Walker told Todd. "They have raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that's a legitimate issue for us to look at."
Walker’s campaign spokesperson AshLee Strong has since said that Walker was not advocating that a wall be built but that he was responding to Todd’s question in saying that he has heard concerns from other people about the security of the border.
Jessica McConnell Burt/GW(WASHINGTON) -- A student from George Washington University has disappeared while studying abroad in South Africa this past weekend, the school confirmed.
Nicholas Upton, 19, is a junior at the school and is currently studying at a partner program in Cape Town. He has not been seen since he went swimming in the Eastern Cape Province on Sunday evening local time, GW University Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in a statement.
He and a group of other students studying abroad traveled to a surf lodge on the other side of the country and the National Sea Rescue Institute, the country's equivalent to a coast guard, issued a statement saying that "he is presumed to have drowned."
"Local private aviators from the area committed to dispatching private aircraft to join in the search but adverse weather conditions have prevented any of the private aircraft from flight," the NSRI said in their statement.
Upton's father Jim spoke to ABC News and said that he feels a slow emergency response hindered his son's rescue. Jim Upton said that the other students who were swimming with his son ran in to the lodge to get help but were not treated with urgency.
"Our big problem right now was that the search was very poorly handled," Jim Upton said. "When they [the students] ran in to get help from the lodge, the lodge didn't call police immediately. They called police after some time and the police were actually going to wait until daylight until they started to search but they got coerced into searching."
He said that townspeople and fellow students launched a local search, but "it took them five hours to notify the national search and rescue team that there was an issue."
Jim Upton said that even though South African authorities said that they have downgraded the search from a rescue to a recovery and authorities no longer believe Nicholas is alive, his parents are holding out hope.
"We're trying to keep our chin up and be as hopeful as possible. It's not over until it's over," Jim Upton said.
Upton, who is originally from Redding, Conn., is a part of the George Washington rowing team and is a member of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity, according to ABC News affiliate WJLA-TV.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama revealed he is personally hurt when people call him anti-Semitic due to the nuclear deal with Iran in a recent interview with Forward, a Jewish American news site.
“So does it hurt you personally when people say that you’re anti-Semitic?” Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of Forward, asked the president.
“Oh, of course. And there’s not a smidgen of evidence for it, other than the fact that there have been times where I’ve disagreed with a particular Israeli government’s position on a particular issue,” Obama said. “If you care deeply about Israel, then you have an obligation to be honest about what you think, the same way you would with any friend. And we don’t do anybody, any friend, a service by just rubber-stamping whatever decisions they make, even if we think that they’re damaging in some fashion.”
“The people I’m close to, the people who know me, including people who disagree with me on this issue, would never even think about making those statements,” he said. “These are hard issues, and worthy of serious debate. But you don’t win the debate by suggesting that the other person has bad motives. That’s I think not just consistent with fair play; I think it’s consistent with the best of the Jewish tradition.”
In a FOX News interview earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested the president used “anti-Semitic” themes in his speech promoting the Iran deal.
“I think anything is anti-Semitic if it’s against the survival of a state that is surrounded by enemies and by people who want to destroy them and to sort of ignore that and to act like everything is normal there and that these people are paranoid is anti-Semitic,” Carson said.
The majority of the president’s interview with Forward focused on the Iran deal, but Obama did offer some insight into his go-to bagel order
“I was always a big poppy seed guy,” Obama said when asked about his favorite bagel flavor. The president noted that when he attended Columbia, he would walk to H&H Bagels on the weekends to get a bagel.
And what does the president like on his bagel? “Just a schmear,” he said. “Lox and capers are okay, but generally just your basic schmear.”
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker(NEW YORK) — New Horizons has passed Pluto but the space probe's work isn't done yet.
NASA has selected a potential new target for New Horizons to fly past located nearly one billion miles beyond the dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, an area beyond Pluto's orbit of the Sun that is the largest structure in the planetary system, with more than 100,000 miniature worlds ripe for exploration.
Before New Horizons reaches the Kuiper Belt object, known as 2014 MU69, a proposal will have to be evaluated by an independent team of experts before the flyby is officially approved.
"While discussions whether to approve this extended mission will take place in the larger context of the planetary science portfolio, we expect it to be much less expensive than the prime mission while still providing new and exciting science," John Grunsfeld, chief of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement.
The object was chosen in part for its location. It will cost less fuel to reach it than other candidates, leaving more fuel for New Horizons to conduct other science opportunities.
New Horizons conserved energy by taking naps on its 3 billion mile journey to Pluto. The spacecraft may have enough power for two more decades of exploration, according to NASA.
The piano-sized probe is equipped with a battery that converts radiation from decaying plutonium into electricity. New Horizons loses about a few watts of power each year, according to NASA, but is estimated to have as much as 20 years left in its life expectancy.
It will spend the next year and few months transmitting data from back to Earth from its July 14 encounter with Pluto, with the information being categorized by low, medium and high priority. It will likely make its last transmission in October or November of next year, officials said.
Launched in January 2006 on a 3 billion mile journey to Pluto, New Horizons "phoned home" after its Pluto flyby, indicating that it had successfully navigated just 7,700 miles from the dwarf planet. It later sent back the first high-resolution images of Pluto's surface.
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Kremlin wants the world to know Russian President Vladimir Putin pumps iron and grills meat before most of the world gets out of bed.
New photos released by the Kremlin show Putin working out and barbecuing with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at a government residence in Sochi before sitting down to breakfast and tea.
Putin regularly works out, detailing his personal fitness routine to ABC News last year ahead of the Sochi Olympics.
"How does one control weight? By not overeating. How does one stay in shape? One plays sports. There are no magic pills here," Putin told ABC's "This Week" last January. "I spend a little time every day to play sports. Last night, I was skiing here until 1:30 in the morning. I hit the gym this morning. I swim almost every day, a thousand meters."
Putin had refrained from his characteristic macho antics for the last few years, but appears to be ramping them up again. Earlier this month, he took a mini-submarine to the bottom of the Black Sea to visit a shipwreck off the coast of Crimea.
iStock/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, Canada) -- Vancouver braces for flooding after the city cleans up from the worst wind storm in nearly a decade.
Toppling trees all over the Vancouver-area, a wind storm's record high winds left 400,000 homes without power, one woman with life-threatening injuries after a tree fell on her, and another woman injured when a street light fell onto her car's windshield.
One resident in the area, Mike King, said his car was crushed by a tree.
"I heard the crack, looked up, stepped back 2 feet, and in slow motion she just fell over," King said.
More heavy rain was expected Sunday as officials reportedly asked people to clear sewer drains.
Marcio Silva/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- At least 200 people are injured and 11 are dead after a fire ripped through a residential complex in the eastern Saudi Arabian city of Khobar, according to the BBC.
The complex is used to house those who work for the Saudi oil company, Aramco. Many of those injured are of different nationalities.
The cause of the fire is currently unknown, says the BBC.
Jon Gorr/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- Four alleged human traffickers appeared in court in Hungary on Saturday accused of playing a role in the deaths of 71 migrants found packed into a delivery truck in Austria.
Razor wire failed to hold back the tide of humanity flooding into Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of people are now on the move - a river of refugees escaping from war and terror in Syria and beyond, traveling through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and the Balkans into Hungary, then Austria, Germany and the rest of Europe.
The crisis has prompted leaders in the European Union to call for immediate talks.
BBC News reports that authorities believe the men arrested are members of a human trafficking group.
On Sunday, Austrian authorities confirmed that a truck with 26 people from Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh were discovered.
The driver of that truck has been taken into custody.
fotokon/iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- Three journalists were sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt on Saturday, in what their employer is calling "another deliberate attack on press freedom."
Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy will return to prison after the ruling and colleague Peter Greste was sentenced though he had been deported earlier this year. "It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary," Al Jazeera's statement continued. "Rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media, they have compromised their independence for political reasons."
The media network called for the release of its journalists, as well as urging "everyone to continue the fight for freedom of speech, for the right of people to be informed and for the right of journalists around the world to be able to do their job."
The men, according to Al Jazeera News, had been accused of not registering with Egypt's journalist syndicate, bringing equipment into the country without approval, broadcasting false information and using a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.