Penance (Confession)

(Excerpt from St. John Paul II's Visit to England and Wales, October 1982)

Before the first Pentecost, Jesus said to his disciples: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).  These words of our Saviour remind us of the fundamental gift of our redemption: the gift of having our sins forgiven and of being reconciled with God.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church continues Christ’s work of reconciling the world to himself.  In every age the Church remains the community of those who have been reconciled with God, the community of those who have received the reconciliation that was willed by God the Father and achieved through the sacrifice of his beloved Son.

The Church is also by her nature always reconciling, handing on to others the gift that she herself has received, the gift of having been forgiven and made one with God.  She does this in many ways, but especially through the sacraments, and in particular through Penance.  In this consoling sacrament she leads each of the faithful individually to Christ, and through the Church’s ministry, Christ himself gives forgiveness, strength and mercy.  Through this highly personal sacrament, Christ continues to meet the men and women of our time.  He restores wholeness where there was division, he communicates light where darkness reigned, and he gives a hope and joy which the world could never give.  Through this sacrament the Church proclaims to the world the infinite riches of God’s mercy, that mercy which has broken down barriers which divided us from God and from one another.