Reconciliatio et Paenitentia
On Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church Today
H.H. John Paul II

December 2, 1984



Promoting Penance and Reconciliation
23. To evoke conversion and penance in man's heart and to offer him the gift of reconciliation is the specific mission of the church as she continues the redemptive work of her divine founder. It is not a mission which consists merely of a few theoretical statements and the putting forward of an ethical ideal unaccompanied by the energy with which to carry it out. Rather it seeks to express itself in precise ministerial functions directed toward a concrete practice of penance and reconciliation.

We can call this ministry, which is founded on and illumined by the principles of faith which we have explained and which is directed toward precise objectives and sustained by adequate means, the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation. Its point of departure is the church's conviction that man, to whom every form of pastoral activity is directed but principally that of penance and reconciliation, is the man marked by sin whose striking image is to be found in King David. Rebuked by the prophet Nathan, David faces squarely his own iniquity and confesses: "I have sinned against the Lord,"(115) and proclaims: "I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me."(116) But he also prays: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow,"(117) and he receives the response of the divine mercy: "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die."(118)

The church thus finds herself face to face with man-with the whole human world-wounded by sin and affected by sin in the innermost depths of his being. But at the same time he is moved by an unrestrainable desire to be freed from sin and, especially if he is a Christian, he is aware that the mystery of pietas, Christ the Lord, is already acting in him and in the world by the power of the redemption.

The church's reconciling role must therefore be carried out in accordance with that intimate link which closely connects the forgiveness and remission of the sin of each person with the fundamental and full reconciliation of humanity which took place with the redemption. This link helps us to understand that, since sin is the active principle of division-division between man and the nature created by God-only conversion from sin is capable of bringing about a profound and lasting reconciliation wherever division has penetrated.

I do not need to repeat what I have already said about the importance of this "ministry of reconciliation,"(119) and of the pastoral activity whereby it is carried out in the church's consciousness and life. This pastoral activity would be lacking an essential aspect of its being and failing in an indispensable function if the "message of reconciliation"(120) were not proclaimed with clarity and tenacity in season and out of season, and if the gift of reconciliation were not offered to the world. But it is worth repeating that the importance of the ecclesial service of reconciliation extends beyond the confines of the church to the whole world.

To speak of the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation, then, is to refer to all the tasks incumbent on the church, at all levels, for their promotion. More concretely, to speak of this pastoral-activity is to evoke all the activities whereby the church, through each and every one of her members-pastors and faithful, at all levels and in all spheres, and with all the means at her disposal, words and actions, teaching and prayer-leads people individually or as groups to true penance and thus sets them on the path to full reconciliation.

The fathers of the synod, as representatives of their brother bishops and as leaders of the people entrusted to them, concerned themselves with the most practical and concrete elements of this pastoral activity. And I am happy to echo their concerns by associating myself with their anxieties and hopes, by receiving the results of their research and experiences, and by encouraging them in their plans and achievements. May they find in this part of the present apostolic exhortation the contribution which they themselves made to the synod, a contribution the usefulness of which I wish to extend, through these pages, to the whole church.

I therefore propose to call attention to the essentials of the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation by emphasizing, with the synod assembly, the following two points:

  1. The means used and the paths followed by the church in order to promote penance and reconciliation.
  2. The sacrament par excellence of penance and reconciliation.


24. In order to promote penance and reconciliation, the church has at her disposal two principal means which were entrusted to her by her founder himself: catechesis and the sacraments. Their use has always been considered by the church as fully in harmony with the requirements of her salvific mission and at the same time as corresponding to the requirements and spiritual needs of people in all ages. This use can be in forms and ways both old and new, among which it will be a good idea to remember in particular what we can call, in the expression of my predecessor Paul VI, the method of dialogue.

25. For the church, dialogue is in a certain sense a means and especially a way of carrying out her activity in the modern world.

The Second Vatican Council proclaims that "the church, by virtue of her mission to shed on the whole world the radiance of the gospel message, and to unify under one Spirit all people... stands forth as a sign of that fraternal solidarity which allows honest dialogue and invigorates it." The council adds that the church should be capable of "establishing an ever more fruitful dialogue among all those who compose the one people of God" and also of "establishing a dialogue with human society."(122)

My predecessor Paul VI devoted to dialogue a considerable part of his first encyclical, Ecclesism Suam, in which he describes it and significantly characterizes it as the dialogue of salvation.(123)

The church in fact uses the method of dialogue in order the better to lead people-both those who through baptism and the profession of faith acknowledge their membership of the Christian community and also those who are outside-to conversion and repentance, along the path of a profound renewal of their own consciences and lives in the light of the mystery of the redemption and salvation accomplished by Christ and entrusted to the ministry of his church. Authentic dialogue, therefore, is aimed above all at the rebirth of individuals through interior conversion and repentance, but always with profound respect for consciences and with patience and at the step-by-step pace indispensable for modern conditions.

Pastoral dialogue aimed at reconciliation continues to be today a fundamental task of the church in different spheres and at different levels.

The church in the first place promotes an ecumenical dialogue, that is, with churches and ecclesial communities which profess faith in Christ, the Son of God and only savior. She also promotes dialogue with the other communities of people who are seeking God and wish to have a relationship of communion with him.

At the basis of this dialogue with the other churches and Christian communities and with the other religions, and as a condition of her credibility and effectiveness, there must be a sincere effort of permanent and renewed dialogue within the Catholic Church herself. She is aware that, by her nature, she is the sacrament of the universal communion of charity;(124) but she is equally aware of the tensions within her, tensions which risk becoming factors of division.

The heartfelt and determined invitation which was already extended by my predecessor in preparation for the 1975 Holy Year(125) is also valid at the present moment. In order to overcome conflicts and to ensure that normal tensions do not prove harmful to the unity of the church, we must all apply to ourselves the word of God; we must relinquish our own subjective views and seek the truth where it is to be found, namely in the divine word itself and in the authentic interpretation of that word provided by the magisterium of the church. In this light, listening to one another, respect, refraining from all hasty judgments, patience, the ability to avoid subordinating the faith which unites to the opinions, fashions and ideological choices which divide-these are all qualities of a dialogue within the church which must be persevering, open and sincere. Obviously dialogue would not have these qualities and would not become a factor of reconciliation if the magisterium were not heeded and accepted.

Thus actively engaged in seeking her own internal communion, the Catholic Church can address an appeal for reconciliation to the other churches with which there does not exist full communion, as well as to the other religions and even to all those who are seeking God with a sincere heart. This she has been doing for some time.

In the light of the council and of the magisterium of my predecessors, whose precious inheritance I have received and am making every effort to preserve and put into effect, I can affirm that the Catholic Church at every level is committed to frank ecumenical dialogue, without facile optimism but also without distrust and without hesitation or delays. The fundamental laws which she seeks to follow in this dialogue are, on the one hand, the conviction that only a spiritual ecumenism-namely an ecumenism founded on common prayer and in a common docility to the one Lord-enables us to make a sincere and serious response to the other exigencies of ecumenical action.(126) The other law is the conviction that a certain facile irenicism in doctrinal and especially dogmatic matters could perhaps lead to a form of superficial and short-lived coexistence, but it could not lead to that profound and stable communion which we all long for. This communion will be reached at the hour willed by divine providence. But in order to reach it, the Catholic Church, for her part, knows that she must be open and sensitive to all "the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren";(127) but she also knows that she must likewise base a frank and constructive dialogue upon a clarity regarding her own positions and upon fidelity and consistency with the faith transmitted and defined in accordance with the perennial tradition of her magisterium. Notwithstanding the threat of a certain defeatism and despite the inevitable slowness which rashness could never correct, the Catholic Church continues with all other Christian brethren to seek the paths to unity, and with the followers of the other religions she continues to seek to have sincere dialogue. May this inter-religious dialogue lead to the overcoming of all attitudes of hostility, distrust, mutual condemnation and even mutual invective, which is the precondition for encounter at least in faith in one God and in the certainty of eternal life for the immortal soul. May the Lord especially grant that ecumenical dialogue will also lead to a sincere reconciliation concerning everything that we already have in common with the other Christian churches- faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, our savior and Lord; a listening to the word; the study of revelation and the sacrament of baptism.

To the extent to which the church is capable of generating active harmony-unity in variety-within herself and of offering herself as a witness to and humble servant of reconciliation with the other churches and ecclesial communities and the other religions, she becomes, in the expressive definition of St. Augustine, a "reconciled world."(128) Then she will be able to be a sign of reconciliation in the world and for the world.

The church is aware of the extreme seriousness of the situation created by the forces of division and war, which today constitute a grave threat not only to the balance and harmony of nations but to the very survival of humanity, and she feels it her duty to offer and suggest her own unique collaboration for the overcoming of conflicts and the restoration of concord.

It is a complex and delicate dialogue of reconciliation in which the church is engaged, especially through the work of the Holy See and its different organisms. The Holy See already endeavors to intervene with the leaders of nations and the heads of the various international bodies or seeks to associate itself with them, conduct a dialogue with them and encourage them to dialogue with one another for the sake of reconciliation in the midst of the many conflicts. It does this not for ulterior motives or hidden interests. since it has none-but "out of a humanitarian concern,"(129) placing its institutional structure and moral authority, which are altogether unique, at the service of concord and peace. It does this in the conviction that as "in war two parties rise against one another" so "in the question of peace there are also necessarily two parties which must know how to commit themselves," and in this "one finds the true meaning of a dialogue for peace."(130)

The church engages in dialogue for reconciliation also through the bishops in the competency and responsibility proper to them, either individually in the direct;on of their respective local churches or united in their episcopal conferences, with the collaboration of the priests and of all those who make up the Christian communities. They truly fulfill their task when they promote this indispensable dialogue and proclaim the human and Christian need for reconciliation and peace. In communion with their pastors, the laity who have as "their own field of evangelizing activity...the vast and complicated world of politics, society...economics...(and) international life,"(131) are called upon to engage directly in dialogue or to work for dialogue aimed at reconciliation. Through them too the church carries out her reconciling activity. Thus the fundamental presupposition and secure basis for any lasting renewal of society and for peace between nations lies in the regeneration of hearts through conversion and penance.

It should be repeated that, on the part of the church and her members, dialogue, whatever form it takes (and these forms can be and are very diverse since the very concept of dialogue has an analogical value) can never begin from an attitude of indifference to the truth. On the contrary, it must begin from a presentation of the truth, offered in a calm way, with respect for the intelligence and consciences of others. The dialogue of reconciliation can never replace or attenuate the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel, the precise goal of which is conversion from sin and communion with Christ and the church. It must be at the service of the transmission and realization of that truth through the means left by Christ to the church for the pastoral activity of reconciliation, namely catechesis and penance.

26. In the vast area in which the church has the mission of operating through dialogue, the pastoral ministry of penance and reconciliation is directed to the members of the body of the church principally through an adequate catechesis concerning the two distinct and complementary realities to which the synod fathers gave a particular importance and which they emphasized in some of the concluding propositions: These are penance and reconciliation. Catechesis is therefore the first means to be used.

At the basis of the synod's very opportune recommendation is a fundamental presupposition; What is pastoral is not opposed to what is doctrinal. Nor can pastoral action prescind from doctrinal content, from which in fact it draws its substance and real validity. Now if the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth'(132) and is placed in the world as mother and teacher, how could she neglect the task of teaching the truth which constitutes a path of life?

From the pastors of the church one expects, first of all, catechesis on reconciliation. This must be founded on the teaching of the Bible, especially the New Testament, on the need to rebuild the covenant with God in Christ the redeemer and reconciler. And in the light of this new communion and friendship, and as an extension of it, it must be founded on the teaching concerning the need to be reconciled with one's brethren, even if this means interrupting the offering of the sacrifice.(133) Jesus strongly insists on this theme of fraternal reconciliation: for example, when he invites us to turn the other cheek to the one who strikes us, and to give our cloak too to the one who has taken our coat,(134) or when he instills the law of forgiveness: forgiveness which each one receives in the measure that he or she foresee forgiveness to be offered even to enemies,(136) forgiveness to be granted seventy times seven times,(137) which means in practice without any limit. On these conditions, which are realizable only in a genuinely evangelical climate, it is possible to have a true reconciliation between individuals, families, communities, nations and peoples. From these biblical data on reconciliation there will naturally derive a theological catechesis, which in its synthesis will also integrate the elements of psychology, sociology and the other human sciences which can serve to clarify situations, describe problems accurately and persuade listeners or readers to make concrete resolutions.

The pastors of the church are also expected to provide catechesis on penance. Here too the richness of the biblical message must be its source. With regard to penance this message emphasizes particularly its value for conversion, which is the term that attempts to translate the word in the Greek text, metanoia,(138) which literally means to allow the spirit to be overturned in order to make it turn toward God. These are also the two fundamental elements which emerge from the parable of the son who was lost and found: his "coming to himself"(139) and his decision to return to his father. There can be no reconciliation unless these attitudes of conversion come first, and catechesis should explain them with concepts and terms adapted to people's various ages and their differing cultural, moral and social backgrounds.

This is a first value of penance and it extends into a second: Penance also means repentance. The two meanings of metanoia appear in the significant instruction given by Jesus: "If your brother repents (returns to you), forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."(140) A good catechesis will show how repentance, just like conversion, is far from being a superficial feeling but a real overturning of the soul.

A third value is contained in penance, and this is the movement whereby the preceding attitudes of conversion and repentance are manifested externally: This is doing penance. This meaning is clearly perceptible in the term metanoia, as used by John the Baptist in the texts of the synoptics.(141) To do penance means above all to restablish the balance and harmony broken by sin, to change direction even at the cost of sacrifice.

A catechesis on penance, therefore, and one that is as complete and adequate as possible, is absolutely essential at a time like ours when dominant attitudes in psychology and social behavior are in such contrast with the threefold value just illustrated. Contemporary man seems to find it harder than ever to recognize his own mistakes and to decide to retrace his steps and begin again after changing course. He seems very reluctant to say "I repent" or "I am sorry." He seems to refuse instinctively and often irresistibly anything that is penance in the sense of a sacrifice accepted and carried out for the correction of sin. In this regard I would like to emphasize that the church's penitential discipline, even though it has been mitigated for some time, cannot be abandoned without grave harm both to the interior life of individual Christians and of the ecclesial community and also to their capacity for missionary influence. It is not uncommon for non-Christians to be surprised at the negligible witness of true penance on the part of Christ's followers. It is clear, however, that Christian penance will only be authentic if it is inspired by love and not by mere fear; if it consists in a serious effort to crucify the " old man " so that the " new" can be born by the power of Christ; if it takes as its model Christ, who though he was innocent chose the path of poverty, patience, austerity and, one can say, the penitential life.

As the synod recalled, the pastors of the church are also expected to provide catechesis on conscience and its formation. This too is a very relevant topic in view of the fact that in the upheavals to which our present culture is subjected this interior sanctuary, man's innermost self, his conscience, is too often attacked, put to the test, confused and obscured. Valuable guidelines for a wise catechesis on conscience can be found both in the doctors of the church and in the theology of the Second Vatican Council, and especially in the documents on the church in the modern world(142) and on religious liberty.(143) Along these same lines, Pope Paul VI often reminded us of the nature and role of conscience in our life.(144) I myself, following his footsteps, miss no opportunity to throw light on this most lofty element of man's greatness and dignity,(145) this "sort of moral sense which leads us to discern what is good and what is an inner eye, a visual capacity of the spirit, able to guide our steps along the path of good." And I have reiterated the need to form one's conscience, lest it become "a force which is destructive of the true humanity of the person, rather than that holy place where God reveals to him his true good."(146)

On other points too, of no less relevance for reconciliation, one looks to the pastors of the church for catechesis.

On the sense of sin, which, as I have said, has become considerably weakened in our world.

On temptation and temptations: The Lord Jesus himself, the Son of God, "who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,"(147) allowed himself to be tempted by the evil one(148) in order to show that, like himself, his followers too would be subjected to temptation, and in order to show how one should behave when subjected to temptation. For those who beseech the Father not to be tempted beyond their own strength(149) and not to succumb to temptation,(150) and for those who do not expose themselves to occasions of sin, being subjected to temptation does not mean that they have sinned; rather it is an opportunity for growing in fidelity and consistency through humility and watchfulness.

Catechesis is also expected on fasting: This can be practiced in old forms and new as a sign of conversion, repentance and personal mortification and, at the same time, as a sign of union with Christ crucified and of solidarity with the starving and suffering.

Catechesis on almsgiving: This is a means of making charity a practical thing by sharing what one possesses with those suffering the consequences of poverty.

Catechesis on the intimate connection which links the overcoming of divisions in the world with perfect communion with God and among people, which is the eschatological purpose of the church.

Catechesis on the concrete circumstances in which reconciliation has to be achieved (in the family, in the civil community, in social structures) and particularly catechesis on the four reconciliations which repair the four fundamental rifts; reconciliation of man with God, with self, with the brethren and with the whole of creation.

Nor can the church omit, without serious mutilation of her essential message, a constant catechesis on what the traditional Christian language calls the four last things of man: death, judgment (universal and particular), hell and heaven. In a culture which tends to imprison man in the earthly life at which he is more or less successful, the pastors of the church are asked to provide a catechesis which will reveal and illustrate with the certainties of faith what comes after the present life: beyond the mysterious gates of death, an eternity of joy in communion with God or the punishment of separation from him. Only in this eschatological vision can one realize the exact nature of sin and feel decisively moved to penance and reconciliation.

Pastors who are zealous and creative never lack opportunities for imparting this broad and varied catechesis, taking into account the different degrees of education and religious formation of those to whom they speak. Such opportunities are often given by the biblical readings and the rites of the Mass and the sacraments, as also by the circumstances of their celebration. For the same purpose many initiatives can be taken such as sermons, lectures, discussions, meetings, courses of religious education, etc., as happens in many places. Here I wish to point out in particular the importance and effectiveness of the old-style popular missions for the purposes of such catechesis. If adapted to the peculiar needs of the present time, such missions can be, today as yesterday, a useful instrument of religious education also regarding penance and reconciliation.

In view of the great relevance of reconciliation based on conversion in the delicate field of human relationships and social interaction at all levels, including the international level, catechesis cannot fail to inculcate the valuable contribution of the church's social teaching. The timely and precise teaching of my predecessors from Pope Leo XIII onward, to which was added the substantial contribution the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council and the contributions of the different episcopates elicited by various circumstances in their respective countries, has made up an ample and solid body of doctrine. This regards the many different needs inherent in the life of the human community, in relationships between individuals, families, groups in their different spheres and in the very constitution of a society that intends to follow the moral law, which is the foundation of civilization.

At the basis of this social teaching of the church there is obviously to be found the vision which the church draws from the word of God concerning the rights and duties of individuals, the family and the community; concerning the value of liberty and the nature of justice, concerning the primacy of charity, concerning the dignity of the human person and the exigencies of the common good to which politics and the economy itself must be directed. Upon these fundamental principles of the social magisterium, which confirm and repropose the universal dictates of reason and of the conscience of peoples, there rests in great part the hope for a peaceful solution to many social conflicts and, in short, the hope for universal reconciliation.

The Sacraments
27. The second divinely instituted means which the church offers for the pastoral activity of penance and reconciliation is constituted by the sacraments.

In the mysterious dynamism of the sacraments, so rich in symbolism and content, one can discern one aspect which is not always emphasized: Each sacrament, over and above its own proper grace, is also a sign of penance and reconciliation. Therefore in each of them it is possible to relive these dimensions of the spirit.

Baptism is of course a salvific washing which, as St Peter says, is effective "not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience."(151) It is death, burial and resurrection with the dead, buried and risen Christ.(152) It is a gift of the Holy Spirit through Christ.(153) But this essential and original constituent of Christian baptism, far from eliminating the penitential element already present in the baptism which Jesus himself received from John "to fulfill all righteousness,"(154) in fact enriches it. In other words, it is a fact of conversion and of reintegration into the right order of relationships with God, of reconciliation with God, with the elimination of the original stain and the consequent introduction into the great family of the reconciled.

Confirmation likewise, as a ratification of baptism and together with baptism a sacrament of initiation, in conferring the fullness of the Holy Spirit and in bringing the Christian life to maturity, signifies and accomplishes thereby a greater conversion of the heart and brings about a more intimate and effective membership of the same assembly of the reconciled, which is the church of Christ.

The definition which St. Augustine gives of the eucharist as "sacramentum pietatis, signum unitatis, vinculum caritatis"(155) clearly illustrates the effects of personal sanctification (pietas) and community reconciliation (unitas and caritas) which derive from the very essence of the eucharistic mystery as an unbloody renewal of the sacrifice of the cross, the source of salvation and of reconciliation for all people.

However, it must be remembered that the church, guided by faith in this great sacrament, teaches that no Christian who is conscious of grave sin can receive the eucharist before having obtained God's forgiveness. This we read in the instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium which, duly approved by Paul VI, fully confirms the teaching of the Council of Trent: "The eucharist is to be offered to the faithful also 'as a remedy, which frees us from daily faults and preserves us from mortal sin' and they are to be shown the fitting way of using the penitential parts of the liturgy of the Mass. The person who wishes to receive holy communion is to be reminded of the precept: Let a man examine himself" (1 Cor 11:28). And the church's custom shows that such an examination is necessary, because no one who is conscious of being in mortal sin, however contrite he may believe himself to be, is to approach the holy eucharist without having first made a sacramental confession. If this person finds himself in need and has no means of going to confession, he should first make an act of perfect contrition."(116)

The sacrament of orders is intended to give to the church the pastors who, besides being teachers and guides, are called to be witnesses and workers of unity, builders of the family of God, and defenders and preservers of the communion of this family against the sources of division and dispersion.

The sacrament of matrimony, the exaltation of human love under the action of grace, is a sign of the love of Christ for the church. But it is also a sign of the victory which Christ grants to couples in resisting the forces which deform and destroy love, in order that the family born from this sacrament may be a sign also of the reconciled and reconciling church for a world reconciled in all its structures and institutions.

Finally, the anointing of the sick in the trial of illness and old age and especially at the Christian's final hour is a sign of definitive conversion to the Lord and of total acceptance of suffering and death as a penance for sins. And in this is accomplished supreme reconciliation with the Father.

However, among the sacraments there is one which, though it has often been called the sacrament of confession because of the accusation of sins which takes place in it, can more appropriately be considered by antonomasia the sacrament of penance, as it is in fact called. And thus it is the sacrament of conversion and reconciliation. The recent synod particularly concerned itself with this sacrament because of its importance with regard to reconciliation.


28. In all its phases and at all its levels the synod considered with the greatest attention that sacramental sign which represents and at the same time accomplishes penance and reconciliation. This sacrament in itself certainly does not contain all possible ideas of conversion and reconciliation. From the very beginning, in fact, the church has recognized and used many and varying forms of penance. Some are liturgical or paraliturgical and include the penitential actin the Mass, services of atonement and pilgrimages; others are of an ascetical character, such as fasting. But of all such acts none is more significant, more divinely efficacious or more lofty and at the same time easily accessible as a rite than the sacrament of penance.

From its preparatory stage and then in the numerous interventions during the sessions, in the group meetings and in the final propositions, the synod took into account the statement frequently made with varying nuances and emphases, namely: The sacrament of penance is in crisis. The synod took note of this crisis. It recommended a more profound catechesis, but it also recommended a no less profound analysis of a theological, historical, psychological, sociological and juridical character of penance in general and of the sacrament of penance in particular. In all of this the synod's intention was to clarify the reasons for the crisis and to open the way to a positive solution for the good of humanity. Meanwhile, from the synod itself the church has received a clear confirmation of its faith regarding the sacrament which gives to every Christian and to the whole community of believers the certainty of forgiveness through the power of the redeeming blood of Christ.

It is good to renew and reaffirm this faith at a moment when it might be weakening, losing something of its completeness or entering into an area of shadow and silence, threatened as it is by the negative elements of the above-mentioned crisis. For the sacrament of confession is indeed being undermined, on the one hand by the obscuring of the mortal and religious conscience, the lessening of a sense of sin, the distortion of the concept of repentance and the lack of effort to live an authentically Christian life. And on the other hand, it is being undermined by the sometimes widespread idea that one can obtain forgiveness directly from God, even in a habitual way, without approaching the sacrament of reconciliation. A further negative influence is the routine of a sacramental practice sometimes lacking in fervor and real spontaneity, deriving perhaps from a mistaken and distorted idea of the effects of the sacrament.

It is therefore appropriate to recall the principal aspects of this great sacrament.

"Whose Sins You Shall Forgive"
29. The books of the Old and New Testament provide us with the first and fundamental fact concerning the Lord's mercy and forgiveness. In the Psalms and in the preaching of the prophets, the name merciful is perhaps the one most often given to the Lord, in contrast to the persistent cliche whereby the God of the Old Testament is presented above all as severe and vengeful. Thus in the Psalms there is a long sapiential passage drawing from the Exodus tradition, which recalls God's kindly action in the midst of his people. This action, though represented in an anthropomorphic way, is perhaps one of the most eloquent Old Testament proclamations of the divine mercy. Suffice it to quote the verse: "Yet he, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often, and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again."(157)

In the fullness of time the Son of God, coming as the lamb who takes away and bears upon himself the sin of the world appears as the one who has the power both to judge(159) and to forgive sins,(160) and who has come not to condemn but to forgive and save.(161)

Now this power to " forgive sins" Jesus confers through the Holy Spirit upon ordinary men, themselves subject to the snare of sin, namely his apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."(162) This is one of the most awe-inspiring innovations of the Gospel! He confers this power on the apostles also as something which they can transmit-as the church has understood it from the beginning-to their successors, charged by the same apostles with the mission and responsibility of continuing their work as proclaimers of the Gospel and ministers of Christ's redemptive work.

Here there is seen in all its grandeur the figure of the minister of the sacrament of penance who by very ancient custom is called the confessor.

Just as at the altar where he celebrates the eucharist and just as in each one of the sacraments, so the priest, as the minister of penance, acts "in persona Christi" The Christ whom he makes present and who accomplishes the mystery of the forgiveness of sins is the Christ who appears as the brother of man,(163) the merciful high priest, faithful and compassionate,(164) the shepherd intent on finding the lost sheep,(165) the physician who heals and comforts,(166) the one master who teaches the truth and reveals the ways of God,(167) the judge of the living and the dead,(168) who judges according to the truth and not according to appearances.(169)

This is undoubtedly the most difficult and sensitive, the most exhausting and demanding ministry of the priest, but also one of the most beautiful and consoling. Precisely for this reason and with awareness also of the strong recommendation of the synod, I will never grow weary of exhorting my brothers, the bishops and priests, to the faithful and diligent performance of ministry.(170) Before the consciences of the faithful, who open up to him with a mixture of fear and trust, the confessor is called to a lofty task which is one of service and penance and human reconciliation. It is a task of learning the weaknesses and falls of those faithful people, assessing their desire for renewal and their efforts to achieve it, discerning the action of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, imparting to them a forgiveness which God alone can grant, "celebrating" their reconciliation with the Father, portrayed in the parable of the prodigal son, reinstating these redeemed sinners in the ecclesial community with their brothers and sisters, and paternally admonishing these penitents with a firm, encouraging and friendly "Do not sin again."(171)

For the effective performance of this ministry, the confessor must necessarily have human qualities of prudence, discretion, discernment and a firmness tempered by gentleness and kindness. He must likewise have a serious and careful preparation, not fragmentary but complete and harmonious, in the different branches of theology, pedagogy and psychology, in the methodology of dialogue and above all in a living and communicable knowledge of the word of God. But it is even more necessary that he should live an intense and genuine spiritual life. In order to lead others along the path of Christian perfection the minister of penance himself must first travel this path. More by actions than by long speeches he must give proof of real experience of lived prayer, the practice of the theological and moral virtues of the Gospel, faithful obedience to the will of God, love of the church and docility to her magisterium.

All this fund of human gifts, Christian virtues and pastoral capabilities has to be worked for and is only acquired with effort. Every priest must be trained for the ministry of sacramental penance from his years in the seminary, not only through the study of dogmatic, moral, spiritual and pastoral theology (which are simply parts of a whole), but also through the study of the human sciences, training in dialogue and especially in how to deal with people in the pastoral context. He must then be guided and looked after in his first activities. He must always ensure his own improvement and updating by means of permanent study. What a wealth of grace, true life and spiritual radiation would be poured out on the church if every priest were careful never to miss through negligence or various excuses the appointment with the faithful in the confessional and if he were even more careful never to go to it unprepared or lacking the necessary human qualities and spiritual and pastoral preparation!

In this regard I cannot but recall with devout admiration those extraordinary apostles of the confessional such as St. John Nepomucene, St. John Vianney, St. Joseph Cafasso and St. Leopold of Castelnuovo, to mention only the best-known confessors whom the church has added to the list of her saints. But I also wish to pay homage to the innumerable host of holy and almost always anonymous confessors to whom is owed the salvation of so many souls who have been helped by them in conversion, in the struggle against sin and temptation, in spiritual progress and, in a word, in achieving holiness. I do not hesitate to say that even the great canonized saints are generally the fruit of those confessionals, and not only the saints but also the spiritual patrimony of the church and the flowering of a civilization permeated with the Christian spirit! Praise then to this silent army of our brothers who have served well and serve each day the cause of reconciliation through the ministry of sacramental penance!

The Sacrament of Forgiveness
30. From the revelation of the value of this ministry and power to forgive sins, conferred by Christ on the apostles and their successors, there developed in the church an awareness of the sign of forgiveness, conferred through the sacrament of penance. It is the certainty that the Lord Jesus himself instituted and entrusted to the church-as a gift of his goodness and loving kindness(172) to be offered to all-a special sacrament for the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism.

The practice of this sacrament, as regards its celebration and form, has undergone a long process of development as is attested to by the most ancient sacramentaries, the documents of councils and episcopal synods, the preaching of the fathers and the teaching of the doctors of the church. But with regard to the substance of the sacrament there has always remained firm and unchanged in the consciousness of the church the certainty that, by the will of Christ, forgiveness is offered to each individual by means of sacramental absolution given by the ministers of penance. It is a certainty reaffirmed with particular vigor both by the Council of Trent(173) and by the Second Vatican Council: "Those who approach the sacrament of penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offenses committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example and by prayer works for their conversion."(174) And as an essential element of faith concerning the value and purpose of penance it must be reaffirmed that our savior Jesus Christ instituted in his church the sacrament of penance so that the faithful who have fallen into sin after baptism might receive grace and be reconciled with God (175)

The church's faith in this sacrament involves certain other fundamental truths which cannot be disregarded. The sacramental rite of penance, in its evolution and variation of actual forms, has always preserved and highlighted these truths. When it recommended a reform of this rite, the Second Vatican Council intended to ensure that it would express these truths even more clearly,(176) and this has come about with the new Rite of Penance.(177) For the latter has made its own the whole of the teaching brought together by the Council of Trent, transferring it from its particular historical context (that of a resolute effort to clarify doctrine in the face of the serious deviations from the church's genuine teaching), in order to translate it faithfully into terms more in keeping with the context of our own time.

Some Fundamental Convictions
31. The truths mentioned above, powerfully and clearly confirmed by the synod and contained in the propositions, can be summarized in the following convictions of faith, to which are connected all the other affirmations of the Catholic doctrine on the sacrament of penance.

I. The first conviction is that for a Christian the sacrament of penance is the primary way of obtaining forgiveness and the remission of serious sin committed after baptism. Certainly the Savior and his salvific action are not so bound to a sacramental sign as to be unable in any period or area of the history of salvation to work outside and above the sacraments. But in the school of faith we learn that the same Savior desired and provided that the simple and precious sacraments of faith would ordinarily be the effective means through which his redemptive power passes and operates. It would therefore be foolish, as well as presumptuous, to wish arbitrarily to disregard the means of grace and salvation which the Lord has provided and, in the specific case, to claim to receive forgiveness while doing without the sacrament which was instituted by Christ precisely for forgiveness. The renewal of the rites carried out after the council does not sanction any illusion or alteration in this direction. According to the church's intention, it was and is meant to stir up in each one of us a new impulse toward the renewal of our interior attitude; toward a deeper understanding of the nature of the sacrament of penance; toward a reception of the sacrament which is more filled with faith, not anxious but trusting; toward a more frequent celebration of the sacrament which is seen to be completely filled with the Lord's merciful love.

II. The second conviction concerns the function of the sacrament of penance for those who have recourse to it. According to the most ancient traditional idea, the sacrament is a kind of judicial action; but this takes place before a tribunal of mercy rather than of strict and rigorous justice, which is comparable to human tribunals only by analogy namely insofar as sinners reveal their sins and their condition as creatures subject to sin; they commit themselves to renouncing and combating sin; accept the punishment (sacramental penance) which the confessor imposes on them and receive absolution from him.

But as it reflects on the function of this sacrament, the church's consciousness discerns in it, over and above the character of judgment in the sense just mentioned, a healing of a medicinal character. And this is linked to the fact that the Gospel frequently presents Christ as healer,(179) while his redemptive work is often called, from Christian antiquity, medicina salutis. "I wish to heal, not accuse," St. Augustine said, referring to the exercise of the pastoral activity regarding penance,(180) and it is thanks to the medicine of confession that the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair.(181) The Rite of Penance alludes to this healing aspect of the sacrament,(182) to which modern man is perhaps more sensitive, seeing as he does in sin the element of error but even more the element of weakness and human frailty.

Whether as a tribunal of mercy or a place of spiritual healing, under both aspects the sacrament requires a knowledge of the sinner's heart in order to be able to judge and absolve, to cure and heal. Precisely for this reason the sacrament involves on the part of the penitent a sincere and complete confession of sins. This therefore has a raison d'etre not only inspired by ascetical purposes (as an exercise of humility and mortification), but one that is inherent in the very nature of the sacrament.

III. The third conviction, which is one that I wish to emphasize, concerns the realities or parts which make up the sacramental sign of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some of these realities are acts of the penitent, of varying importance but each indispensable either for the validity, the completeness or the fruitfulness of the sign.

First of all, an indispensable condition is the rectitude and clarity of the penitent's conscience. People cannot come to true and genuine repentance until they realize that sin is contrary to the ethical norm written in their in most being;(183) until they admit that they have had a personal and responsible experience of this contrast; until they say not only that "sin exists" but also "I have sinned"; until they admit that sin has introduced a division into their consciences which then pervades their whole being and separates them from God and from their brothers and sisters. The sacramental sign of this clarity of conscience is the act traditionally called the examination of conscience, an act that must never be one of anxious psychological introspection, but a sincere and calm comparison with the interior moral law, with the evangelical norms proposed by the church, with Jesus Christ himself, who is our teacher and model of life, and with the heavenly Father, who calls us to goodness and perfection.(184)

But the essential act of penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again,(185) out of the love which one has for God and which is reborn with repentance. Understood in this way, contrition is therefore the beginning and the heart of conversion, of that evangelical metanoia which brings the person back to God like the prodigal son returning to his father, and which has in the sacrament of penance its visible sign and which perfects attrition. Hence "upon this contrition of heart depends the truth of penance."(186)

While reiterating everything that the church, inspired by God's word, teaches about contrition, I particularly wish to emphasize here just one aspect of this doctrine. It is one that should be better known and considered. Conversion and contention are often considered under the aspect of the undeniable demands which they involve and under the aspect of the mortification which they impose for the purpose of bringing about a radical change of life. But we all to well to recall and emphasize the fact that contrition and conversion are even more a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one's true identity, which has been upset and disturbed by sin, a liberation in the very depth of self and thus a regaining of lost joy, the joy of being saved,(187) which the majority of people in our time are no longer capable of experiencing.

We therefore understand why, from the earliest Christian times, in line with the apostles and with Christ, the church has included in the sacramental sign of penance the confession of sins. This latter takes on such importance that for centuries the usual name of the sacrament has been and still is that of confession. The confession of sins is required, first of all, because the sinner must be known by the person who in the sacrament exercises the role of judge. He has to evaluate both the seriousness of the sins and the repentance of the penitent; he also exercises the role of the healer and must acquaint himself with the condition of the sick person in order to treat and heal him. But the individual confession also has the value of a sign: a sign of the meeting of the sinner with the mediation of the church in the person of the minister, a sign of the person's revealing of self as a sinner in the sight of God and the church,.of facing his own sinful condition in the eyes of God. The confession of sins therefore cannot be reduced to a mere attempt at psychological self-liberation even though it corresponds to that legitimate and natural need, inherent in the human heart, to open oneself to another. It is a liturgical act, solemn in its dramatic nature, yet humble and sober in the grandeur of its meaning. It is the act of the prodigal son who returns to his Father and is welcomed by him with the kiss of peace. It is an act of honesty and courage. It is an act of entrusting oneself, beyond sin, to the mercy that forgives.(188) Thus we understand why the confession of sins must ordinarily be individual not collective, just as sin is a deeply personal matter. But at the same time this confession in a way forces sin out of the secret of the heart and thus out of the area of pure individuality, emphasizing its social character as well, for through the minister of penance it is the ecclesial community, which has been wounded by sin, that welcomes anew the repentant and forgiven sinner.

The other essential stage of the sacrament of penance this time along to the confessor as judge and healer, a figure of God the Father welcoming and forgiving the one who returns: This is the absolution. The words which express it and the gestures that accompany it in the old and in the new Rite of Penance are significantly simple in their-grandeur. The sacramental formula "I absolve you" and the imposition of the hand and the Sign of the Cross made over the penitent show that at this moment the contrite and converted sinner comes into contact with the power and mercy of God. It is the moment at which, in response to the penitent, the Trinity becomes present in order to blot out sin and restore innocence. And the saving power of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is also imparted to the penitent as the "mercy stronger than sin and offense," as I defined it in my encyclical Dives in Misericordia. God is always the one who is principally offended by sin-"Tibi soli peccavi!"-and God alone can forgive. Hence the absolution that the priest, the minister of forgiveness, though himself a sinner, grants to the penitent is the effective sign of the intervention of the Father in every absolution and the sign of the "resurrection" from "spiritual death" which is renewed each time that the sacrament of penance is administered. Only faith can give us certainty that at that moment every sin is forgiven and blotted out by the mysterious intervention of the Savior.

Satisfaction is the final act which crowns the sacramental sign of penance. In some countries the act which the forgiven and absolved penitent agrees to perform after receiving absolution is called precisely the penance. What is the meaning of this satisfaction that one makes or the penance that one performs? Certainly it is not a price that one pays for the sin absolved and for the forgiveness obtained: No human price can match what is obtained, which is the fruit of Christ's precious blood. Acts of satisfaction-which, while remaining simple and humble, should be made to express more clearly all that they signify-mean a number of valuable things: They are the sign of the personal commitment that the Christian has made to God in the sacrament to begin a new life (and therefore they should not be reduced to mere formulas to be recited, but should consist of acts of worship, charity, mercy or reparation). They include the idea that the pardoned sinner is able to join his own physical and spiritual mortification-which has been sought after or at least accepted-to the passion of Jesus, who has obtained the forgiveness for him. They remind us that even after absolution there remains in the Christian a dark area due to the wound of sin, to the imperfection of love in repentance, to the weakening of the spiritual faculties. It is an area in which there still operates an infectious source of sin which must always be fought with mortification and penance. This is the meaning of the humble but sincere act of satisfaction.(189)

IV. There remains to be made a brief mention of other important convictions about the sacrament of penance.

First of all, it must be emphasized that nothing is more personal and intimate that this sacrament, in which the sinner stands alone before God with his sin, repentance and trust. No one can repent in his place or ask forgiveness in his name. There is a certain solitude of the sinner in his sin, and this can be seen dramatically represented in Cain with sin "crouching at his door," as the Book of Genesis says so effectively, and with the distinctive mark on his forehead;(190) in David, admonished by the prophet Nathan;(191) or in the prodigal son when he realizes the condition to which he has reduced himself by staying away from his father and decides to return to him.(192) Everything takes place between the individual alone and God. But at the same time one cannot deny the social nature of this sacrament, in which the whole church-militant, suffering and glorious in heaven- comes to the aid of the penitent and welcomes him again into her bosom, especially as it was the whole church which had been offended and wounded by his sin. As the minister of penance, the priest by virtue of his sacred office appears as the witness and representative of this ecclesial nature of the sacrament. The individual nature and ecclesial nature are two complementary aspects of the sacrament which the progressive reform of the Rite of Penance, especially that contained in the Ordo Paenitentiae promulgated by Paul VI, has sought to emphasize and to make more meaningful in its celebration.

V. Second, it must be emphasized that the most precious result of the forgiveness obtained in the sacrament of penance consists in reconciliation with God, which takes place in the inmost heart of the son who was lost and found again, which every penitent is. But it has to be added that this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations which repair the breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his own true identity. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way attacked and wounded. He is reconciled with the church. He is reconciled with all creation.

As a result of an awareness of this, at the end of the celebration there arises in the penitent a sense of gratitude to God for the gift of divine mercy received, and the church invites the penitent to have this sense of gratitude.

Every confessional is a special and blessed place from which, with divisions wiped away, there is born new and uncontaminated a reconciled individual-a reconciled world!

VI. Last, I particularly wish to speak of one final consideration, one which concerns all of us priests, who are the ministers of the sacrament of penance.(193) The priest's celebration of the eucharist and administration of the other sacraments, his pastoral zeal, his relationship with the faithful his communion with his brother priests, his collaboration with his bishop, his life of prayer-in a word, the whole of his priestly existence, suffers an inexorable decline if by negligence or for some other reason he fails to receive the sacrament of penance at regular intervals and in a spirit of genuine faith and devotion. If a priest were no longer to go to confession or properly confess his sins, his priestly being and his priestly action would feel its effects very soon and this would also be noticed by the community of which he was the pastor.

But I also add that even in order to be a good and effective minister of penance the priest needs to have recourse to the source of grace and holiness present in this sacrament We priests, on the basis of our personal experience, can certainly say that the more careful we are to receive the sacrament of penance and to approach it frequently and with good dispositions, the better we fulfill our own ministry as confessors and ensure that our penitents benefit from it. And on the other hand, this ministry would lose much of its effectiveness if in some way we were to stop being good penitents. Such is the internal logic of this great sacrament. It invites all of us priests of Christ to pay renewed attention to our personal confession.

Personal experience in its turn becomes and must become today an incentive for the diligent, regular, patient and fervent exercise of the sacred ministry of penance, to which we are committed by the very fact of our priesthood and our vocation as pastors and servants of our brothers and sisters. Also with this present exhortation I therefore address an earnest invitation to all the priests of the world, especially to my brothers in the episcopacy and to pastors of souls, an invitation to make every effort to encourage the faithful to make use of this sacrament. I urge them to use all possible and suitable means to ensure that the greatest possible number of our brothers and sisters receive the "grace that has been given to us" through penance for the reconciliation of every soul and of the whole world with God in Christ.

Forms of Celebration
32. Following the suggestions of the Second Vatican Council, the Ordo Paenitentiae provided three rites which, while always keeping intact the essential elements, make it possible to adapt the celebration of the sacrament of penance to particular pastoral circumstances.

The first form-reconciliation of individual penitents is the only normal and ordinary way of celebrating the sacrament, and it cannot and must not be allowed to fall into disuse or be neglected. The second form-reconciliation of a number of penitents with individual confession and absolution-even though in the preparatory acts it helps to give greater emphasis to the community aspects of the sacrament, is the same as the first form in the culminating sacramental act, namely individual confession and individual absolution of sins. It can thus be regarded as equal to the first form as regards the normality of the rite. The third form however- reconciliation of a number of penitents with general confession and absolution-is exceptional in character. It is therefore not left to free choice but is regulated by a special discipline.

The first form makes possible a highlighting of the more personal- and essential-aspects which are included in the penitential process. The dialogue between penitent and confessor, the sum of the elements used (the biblical texts, the choice of the forms of "satisfaction," etc.), make the sacramental celebration correspond more closely to the concrete situation of the penitent. The value of these elements are perceived when one considers the different reasons that bring a Christian to sacramental penance: a need for personal reconciliation and readmission to friendship with God by regaining the grace lost by sin; a need to check one's spiritual progress and sometimes a need for a more accurate discernment of one's vocation; on many other occasions a need and a desire to escape from a state of spiritual apathy and religious crisis. Thanks then to its individual character, the first form of celebration makes it possible to link the sacrament of penance with something which is different but readily linked with it: I am referring to spiritual direction. So it is certainly true that personal decision and commitment are clearly signified and promoted in this first form.

The second form of celebration, precisely by its specific dimension, highlights certain aspects of great importance: The word of God listened to in common ha s remarkable effect as compared to its individual reading and better emphasizes the ecclesial character of conversion and reconciliation. It is particularly meaningful at various seasons of the liturgical year and in connection with events of special pastoral importance. The only point that needs mentioning here is that for celebrating the second form there should be an adequate number of confessors present.

It is therefore natural that the criteria for deciding which of the two forms of celebration to use should be dictated not by situational and subjective reasons, but by a desire to secure the true spiritual good of the faithful in obedience to the penitential discipline of the church.

We shall also do well to recall that, for a balanced spiritual and pastoral orientation in this regard, great importance must continue to be given to teaching the faithful also to make use of the sacrament of penance for venial sins alone, as is borne out by a centuries-old doctrinal tradition and practice.

Though the church knows and teaches that venial sins are forgiven in other ways too-for instance, by acts of sorrow, works of charity, prayer, penitential rites-she does not cease to remind everyone of the special usefulness of the sacramental moment for these sins too. The frequent use of the sacrament-to which some categories of the faithful are in fact held-strengthens the awareness that even minor sins offend God and harm the church, the body of Christ. Its celebration then becomes for the faithful "the occasion and the incentive to conform themselves more closely to Christ and tomake themselves more docile to the voice of the Spirit."(194) Above all it should be emphasized that the grace proper to the sacramental celebration has a great remedial power and helps to remove the very roots of sin.

Attention to the actual celebration,(195) with special reference to the importance of the word of God which is read, recalled and explained, when this is possible and suitable, to the faithful and with them, will help to give fresh life to the practice of the sacrament and prevent it from declining into a mere formality and routine. The penitent will be helped rather to discover that he or she is living a salvific event capable of inspiring fresh life and giving true peace of heart. This careful attention to the celebration will also lead the individual churches to arrange special times for the celebration of the sacrament. It will also be an incentive to teaching the faithful especially children and young people, to accustom themselves to keeping to these times except in cases of necessity, when the parish priest must always show a ready willingness to receive whoever comes to him.

Celebration of the Sacrament with General Absolution

33. The new liturgical regulation and, more recently, the Code of Canon Law,196 specify the conditions which make it lawful to use "the rite of reconciliation of a number of penitents with general confession and absolution." The norms and regulations given on this point, which are the result of mature and balanced consideration, must be accepted and applied in such a way as to avoid any sort of arbitrary interpretation.

It is opportune to reflect more deeply on the reasons which order the celebration of penance in one of the first two forms and permit the use of the third form. First of all, there is the reason of fidelity to the will of the Lord Jesus, transmitted by the doctrine of the church, and also the reason of obedience to the church's laws. The synod repeated in one of its propositions the unchanged teaching which the church has derived from the most ancient tradition, and it repeated the law with which she has codified the ancient penitential practice: The individual and integral confession of sins with individual absolution constitutes the only ordinary way in which the faithful who are conscious of serious sin are reconciled with God and with the church. From this confirmation of the church's teaching it is clear that every serious sin must always be stated, with its determining circumstances, in an individual confession.

Then there is a reason of the pastoral order. While it is true that, when the conditions required by canonical discipline occur, use may be made of the third form of celebration, it must not be forgotten that this form cannot become an ordinary one, and it cannot and must not be used-as the synod repeated-except "in cases of grave necessity." And there remains unchanged the obligation to make an individual confession of serious sins before again having recourse to another general absolution. The bishop therefore, who is the only one competent in his own diocese to assess whether the conditions actually exist which canon law lays down for the use of the third form, will give this judgment with a grave obligation on his own conscience, with full respect for the law and practice of the church and also taking into account the criteria and guidelines agreed upon- on the basis of the doctrinal and pastoral considerations explained above-with the other members of the episcopal conference. Equally it will always be a matter of genuine pastoral concern to lay down and guarantee the conditions that make recourse to the third form capable of producing the spiritual fruits for which it is meant. The exceptional use of the third form of celebration must never lead to a lesser regard for, still less an abandonment of, the ordinary forms nor must it lead to this form being considered an alternative to the other two forms. It is not in fact left to the freedom of pastors and the faithful to choose from among these forms the one considered most suitable. It remains the obligation of pastors to facilitate for the faithful the practice of integral and individual confession of sins, which constitutes for them not only a duty but also an inviolable and inalienable right, besides being something needed by the soul. For he faithful, the use of the third form of celebration involves the obligation of following all the norms regulating its exercise, including that of not having recourse again to general absolution before a normal integral and individual confession of sins, which must be made as soon as possible. Before granting absolution the priest must inform and instruct the faithful about this norm and about the obligation to observe it.

With this reminder of the doctrine and the law of the church I wish to instill into everyone the lively sense of responsibility which must guide us when we deal with sacred things like the sacraments, which are not our property, or like consciences, which have a right not to be left in uncertainty and confusion. The sacraments and consciences, I repeat, are sacred, and both require that we serve them in truth.

This is the reason for the church's law.

Some More Delicate Cases
34. I consider it my duty to mention at this point, if very briefly, a pastoral case that the synod dealt with-insofar as it was able to do so-and which it also considered in one of the propositions. I am referring to certain situations, not infrequent today, affecting Christians who wish to continue their sacramental religious practice, but who are prevented from doing so by their personal condition, which is not in harmony with the commitments freely undertaken before God and the church. These are situations which seem particularly delicate and almost inextricable.

Numerous interventions during the synod, expressing the general thought of the fathers, emphasized the coexistence and mutual influence of two equally important principles in relation to these cases. The first principle is that of compassion and mercy, whereby the church, as the continuer in history of Christ's presence and work, not wishing the death of the sinner but that the sinner should be converted and live,(197) and careful not to break the bruised reed or to quench the dimly burning wick,(198) ever seeks to offer, as far as possible, the path of return to God and of reconciliation with him. The other principle is that of truth and consistency, whereby the church does not agree to call good evil and evil good. Basing herself on these two complementary principles, the church can only invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways, not however through the sacraments of penance and the eucharist until such time as they have attained the required dispositions.

On this matter, which also deeply torments our pastoral hearts, it seemed my precise duty to say clear words in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, as regards the case of the divorced and remarried,(199) and likewise the case of Christians living together in an irregular union.

At the same time and together with the synod, I feel that it is my clear duty to urge the ecclesial communities and especially the bishops to provide all possible assistance to those priests who have fallen short of the grave commitments which they undertook at their ordination and who are living in irregular situations. None of these brothers of ours should feel abandoned by the church.

For all those who are not at the present moment in the objective conditions required by the sacrament of penance, the church's manifestations of maternal kindness, the support of acts of piety apart from sacramental ones, a sincere effort to maintain contact with the Lord, attendance at Mass and the frequent repetition of acts of faith, hope, charity and sorrow made as perfectly as possible can prepare the way for full reconciliation at the hour that providence alone knows.

35. At the end of this document I hear echoing within me and I desire to repeat to all of you the exhortation which the first bishop of Rome, at a critical hour of the beginning of the church, addressed "to the exiles of the dispersion...chosen and destined by God the Father...: Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind."(200) The apostle urged: "Have unity of spirit." But he immediately went on to point out the sins against harmony and peace which must be avoided: "Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing." And he ended with a word of encouragement and hope: "Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?"(201)

At an hour of history which is no less critical, I dare to join my exhortation to that of the prince of the apostles, the first to occupy this See of Rome as a witness to Christ and as pastor of the church, and who here "presided in charity" before the entire world. In communion with the bishops who are the successors of the apostles and supported by the collegial reflection that many of them, meeting in the synod, devoted to the topics and problems of reconciliation, I too wish to speak to you with the same spirit of the fisherman of Galilee when he said to our brothers and sisters in the faith, distant in time but so closely linked in heart: "Have unity of spirit.... Do not return evil for evil.... Be zealous for what is right."(202) And he added: "It is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong."(203)
This exhortation is completely permeated by words which Peter had heard from Jesus himself and by ideas which formed part of his "good news": the new commandment of love of neighbor; the yearning for and commitment to unity; the beatitudes of mercy and patience in persecution for the sake of justice; the repaying of evil with good; the forgiveness of offenses; the love of enemies. In these words and ideas is the original and transcendent synthesis of the Christian ethic or, more accurately and more profoundly, of the spirituality of the new covenant in Jesus Christ.

I entrust to the Father, rich in mercy, I entrust to the Son of God, made man as our redeemer and reconciler, I entrust to the Holy Spirit, source of unity and peace, this call of mine, as father and pastor, to penance and reconciliation. May the most holy and adorable Trinity cause to spring up in the church and in the world the small seed which at this hour I plant in the generous soil of many human hearts.

In order that in the not too distant future abundant fruits may come from it, I invite you all to join me in turning to Christ's heart, the eloquent sign of the divine mercy, the "propitiation for our sins," "our peace and reconciliation,"(204) that we may draw from it an interior encouragement to hate sin and to be converted to God, and find in it the divine kindness which lovingly responds to human repentance.

I likewise invite you to turn with me to the immaculate heart of Mary, mother of Jesus, in whom "is effected the reconciliation of God with humanity..., is accomplished the work of reconciliation, because she has received from God the fullness of grace in virtue of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ."(205) Truly Mary has been associated with God, by virtue of her divine motherhood, in the work of reconciliation.(206)

Into the hands of this mother, whose fiat marked the beginning of that "fullness of time" in which Christ accomplished the reconciliation of humanity with God, to her immaculate heart-to which we have repeatedly entrusted the whole of humanity, disturbed by sin and tormented by so many tensions and conflicts-I now in a special way entrust this intention: that through her intercession humanity may discover and travel the path of penance, the only path that can lead it to full reconciliation.

To all of you who in a spirit of ecclesial communion in obedience and faith(207) receive the indications, suggestions and directives contained in this document and seek to put them into living pastoral practice, I willingly impart my apostolic blessing.

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent, in the year 1984, the seventh of my pontificate.

1. Mk 1:15.
2. Cf Pope John Paul II, opening speech at the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate: AAS 71 (1979), 198-204.
3. The idea of a "shattered world" is seen in the works of numerous contemporary writers, both Christian and non-Christian, witnesses of man's condition in this tormented period of history.
4. Cf Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 3, 43 and 44; Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12; Pope Paul VI, encyclical Ecclesiam Suam: AAS 56 (1964), 609-659.
5. At the very beginning of the church, the apostle Paul wrote with words of fire about division in the body of the church, in the famous passage 1 Cor 1:10-16. Years later, St. Clement of Rome was also to write to the Corinthians, to condemn the wounds inside that community: cf Letter to the Corinthians, III-VI; LVII: Patres Apostolici, ed. Funk, I, 103-109;171-173. We know that from the earliest fathers onward Christ's seamless robe, which the soldiers did not divide, became an image of the church's unity: cf St. Cyprian, De EcclesiaeCatholicae Unitate, 7: CCL 3/1, 254f; St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 118, 4: CCL 36, 656f; St. Bede theVenerable, In Marci Evangelium Expositio, IV, 15: CCL 120, 630i In Lucae Evangelium Expositio, VI, 23: CCL 120, 403; In S. Ioannis Evangelium Expositio, 19: PL 92, 911f.
6. The encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII's spiritual testament, is often considered a "social document" and even a "political message," and in fact it is if these terms are understood in their broadest sense. As is evident more than twenty years after its publication, the document is in fact more than a strategy for the peaceful coexistence of people and nations; it is a pressing reminder of the higher values without which peace on earth becomes a mere dream. One of these values is precisely that of reconciliation among people, and John XXIII often referred to this subject. With regard to Paul VI, it will sufflce to recall that in calling the church and the world to celebrate the Holy Year of 1975, he wished "renewal and reconciliation" to be the central idea of that important event. Nor can one forget the catechesis which he devoted to this key theme, also in explaining the jubilee itself.
7. As I wrote in the bull of indiction of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption: "This special time, when all Christians are called upon to realize more profoundly their vocation to reconciliation with the Father in the Son, will only reach its full achievement if it leads to a fresh commitment by each and every person to the service of reconciliation, not only among all the disciples of Christ but also among all men and women": bull Aperite Portas Redemptori, 3: AAS 75 (1983), 93.
8. The theme of the synod was, more precisely, "Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church."
9. Cf Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15.
10. Cf Lk 3:8.
11. Cf Mt 16:24-26; Mk 8:34-36; Lk 9:23-25.
12. Eph 4:23f.
13. Cf 1 Cor 3:1-20.
14. Cf Col 3:1f.
15. "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God": 2 Cor 5:20.
16. "We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation": Rom 5:11; cf Col 1:20.
17. The Second Vatican Council noted: "The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many conflicting forces. In his condition as a created being he is subject to a thousand shortcomings, but feels untrammeled in his inclinations and destined for a higher form of life. Torn by a welter of anxieties he is compelled to choose between them and repudiate some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as he is, he often does the very thing he hates and does not do what he wants (cf Rom 7:14ff). And so he feels himself divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life." Gaudium et Spes, 10.
18. Cf Col 1:19f.
19. Cf Pope John Paul II, encyclical Dives in Misencordia, 5-6: AAS 72 (1980), 1193-1199.
20. Cf Lk 15:11-32.
21. In the Old Testament, the Book of Jonah is a wonderful anticipation and figure of this aspect of the parable. Jonah's sin is that he was "displeased...exceedingly and he was angry" because God is "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repentest of evil. His sin is also that of pitying a castor oil plant "which came into being in a night and perished in a night" and not understanding that the Lord pities Niniveh. cf Jon 4.
22. Cf Rom 5:10f.; cf Col 1:20-22.
23. Cf 2 Cor 5:18, 20.
24. Jn 11:52.
25. Cf Col 1:20.
26. Cf Sir 44:17.
27. Eph 2:14.
28. Eucharistic Prayer 3.
29. Cf Mt 5:23f.
30. Ibid., 27:46; Mk 15:34, Ps 22(21):2.
31. Cf Eph 2:14-16.
32. St. Leo the Great, Tractatus 63 (De Passione Domini, 12), 6: CCL 138/A, 386.
33. Cf 2 Cor 5:18f.
34. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 1.
35. "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": Pope John Paul II, Homily at Liverpool, May 30, 1982: Insegnamenti, V, 2 (1982), 1992.
36. Cf Acts 15:2-33.
37. Cf Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 13: AAS 68 (1976), 12f.
38. Cf Pope John Paul II, apostolic exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, 24: AAS 71 (1979), 1297.
39. Cf Pope Paul VI, encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam: ASS 56 (1964), 609-659.
40. Cf 2 Cor 5:20.
41. Cf 1 Jn 4:8.
42. Cf Wis 11:23-26; Gn 1:27; Ps 8:4-8.
43. Cf Wis 2:24.
44. Cf Gn 3:12f; 4:1-16.
45. Cf Eph 2:4.
46. Cf ibid., 1:10.
47. Jn 13:34.
48. Cf Second Vatican Council Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 38.
49. Cf Mk 1:15.
50. Cf 2 Cor 5:20.
51. Cf Eph 2:14-16.
52. Cf St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XXII 17: CCL 48, 835f; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III pars, q. 64, art. 2 ad tertium.
53. Cf Pope Paul VI, Allocution at the Closing of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, November 21, 1964: ASS 56 (1964), 1015-1018.
54. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 39.
55.Ibid., Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 4.
56.1 Jn 1:8-9.
57. 1 Jn 3:20; cf my reference to this passage in my address at the general audience of March 14, 1984: Insegnamenti, VII, 1 (1984) 683.
58. Cf 2 Sm 11-12.
59. Cf Ps 50(51):3-4.
60. Cf Lk 15:18, 21.
61. Lettere, Florence 1970, I, pp.3f; II Dialogo della Divina Providenza, Rome 1980, passim.
62. Cf Rom 3:23-26.
63. Cf Eph 1:18.
64. Cf Gn 11:1-9.
65. Cf Ps 127 (126):1.
66. Cf 2 1 hes 2:7.
67. Cf Rom 7:7-25; Eph 2:2; 6:12.
68. The terminology used in the Septuagint Greek translation and in the New Testament for sin is significant. The most common term for sin is hamartia, with its various derivatives. It expresses the concept of offending more or less gravely against a norm or law, or against a person or even a divinity. But sin is also called adikia, and the concept here is of acting unjustly. The Bible also speaks of parabasis (transgression), asebeis (impiety) and other concepts. They all convey the image of sin.
69. Gn 3:5: "And you will be like God, knowing good and evil"; cf also v. 22.
70. Cf ibid., 3:12.
71. Cf ibid., 4:2-16.
72. The expression from the French writer Elizabeth Leseur, Journal et Pensees de Chaque Jour, Paris 1918, p. 31.
73. Cf Mt 22:39; Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27f.
74. Cf Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation Libertatis Nuntius; August 6, 1984 IV, 14-15: ASS 76 (1984), 885f.
75. Cf Nm 15:30.
76. Cf Lv 18:26-30.
77. Cf ibid., 19:4.
78. Cf ibid., 20:1-7.
79. Cf Ex 21:17.
80. Cf Lv 4:2ff; 5:1ff; Nm 15:22-29.
81. Cf Mt 5:28; 6:23; 12:31f; 15:19; Mk 3:28-30; Rom 1:29-31; 13:13; Jas 4.
82. Cf Mt 5:17; 15:1-10; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20.
83. Cf 1 Jn 5:16f.
84. Cf 1 Jn 17:3.
85. Cf 1 Jn 2:22.
86. Cf 1 Jn 5:21.
87. Cf 1 Jn 5:16-21.
88. Cf Mt 12:31f.
89. Cf St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 14, aa. 1-8.
90. Cf 1 Jn 3:20.
91. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 14, a. 3, ad primum.
92. Cf Phil 2:12.
93. Cf St. Augustine, De Spintu et Littera, XXVIII: CSEL 60, 202f; Enarrat. in ps. 39, 22: CCL 38, 441; Enchiridion ad Laurentium de Fide et Spe et Cantate, XIX, 71: CCL 46, 88; In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 12, 3,14: CCL 36, 129.
94. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 72, a. 5.
95. Cf Council of Trent, Session VI, De Iustificatione, Chap. 2 and Canons 23, 25, 27: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, Bologna 1973, 671 and 680f (DS 1573, 1575,1577).
96. Cf Council of Trent, Session IV De Iustificatione, Chapt. 15: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. dt. 677 (DS 1544).
97. Pope John Paul II, Angelus Message of March 14, 1982: Insegnamenti V, 1 (1982),861.
98. Gaudium et Spes, 16.
99. Pope John Paul II, Angelus Message of March 14, 1982: Insegnamenti V, 1 (1982),860.
100. Pope Pius XII, Radio Message to the U.S. National Catechetical Congress in Boston (October 26,1946): Discorsi e Radiomessaggi VIII (1946) 288.
101. Cf Pope John Paul II, encyclical Redemptor Hominis, 15: AAS 71 (1979), 286-289.
102. Cf Gaudium et Spes, 3; cf 1 Jn 3:9.
103. Pope John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of the Eastern Region of France (April 1,1982),2: Insegnamenti V, 1 (1982), 1081.
104.1 Tm 3:15f.
105. The text presents a certain difficulty, since the relative pronoun which opens the literal translation does not agree with the neuter mysterion. Some late manuscripts have adjusted the text in order to correct the grammar. But it was Paul's intention merely to put next to what he had written a venerable text which for him was fully explanatory.
106. The early Christian community expresses its faith in the crucified and glorified Christ, whom the angels adore and who is the Lord. But the striking element of this message remains the phrase"manifested in the flesh": that the eternal Son of God became man is the "great mystery.
107. 1 Jn 5:18f.
108. Ibid., 3:9.
109. 1 Tm 3:15.
110. 1 Jn 1:8.
111. Ibid., 5:19.
112. Cf Ps. 51(50):5.
113. Cf Eph. 2:4.
114 Cf Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 8; 15: AAS 72 (1980), 1203-1207; 1231.
115. 2 Sm 12:13.
116. Ps 51(50):3.
117. Ibid., 51(50):7.
118. 2 Sm 12:13.
119. Cf 2 Cor 5:18.
120. Cf 2 Cor 5:19.
121. Gaudium et Spes, 92.
122. Decree on the Pastoral Offlce of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 13; cf Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 8; Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes, 11-12.
123. Cf Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, III: AAS 56 (1964), 639-659.
124. Lumen Gentium, 1, 9,13.
125. Pope Paul VI, apostolic exhortation Paterna Cum Benevolentia: AAS 67 (1975), 5-23.
126. Cf Unitatis Redintegratio, 7-8.
127. Ibid., 4.
128. St. Augustine, Sermo 96, 7: PL 38, 588.
129. Pope John Paul II, Speech to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See January 15, 1983), 4, 6, 1 1: AAS 75 (1983), 376, 378f, 381.
130. Pope John Paul II, Homily at the Mass for the 16th World Day of Peace (January 1, 1983), 6: Insegnamenti VI, 1 (1983), 7.
131. Pope Paul VI, apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 70: AAS 68 (1976), 59f.
132. 1 Tm 3:15.
133. Cf Mt 5:23f.
134. Cf ibid., 5:38-40.
135. Cf ibid., 6:12.
136. Cf ibid., 5:43ff.
137. Cf ibid., 18:21f.
138. Cf Mk 1:14; Mt 3:2; 4:17; Lk 3:8.
139. Cf Lk 15:17.
140. Ibid., 17:3f.
141. Cf Mt 3:2; Mk 1:2-6; Lk 3:1-6.
142. Cf Gaudium et Spes, 8, 16, 19, 26, 41,48.
143. Cf Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae, 2, 3, 4.
144. Cf among many others the addresses at the general audiences of March 28,1973: Insegnamenti XI (1973),294ff; August 8,1973: ibid., 772ff, November 7, 1973: ibid., 1054ff; March 13, 1974: Insegnamenti' XII (1974), 230ff; May 8, 1974: ibid., 402ff; February 12, 1975: Insegnamenti XIII (1975), ibid.,290ff; July 13, 1977: Insegnamenti XV (1977), 710ff.
145. Cf PopeJohn Paul II, Angelus Message of March 14, 1982: Insegnamenti V, 1 (1982), 860f.
146. Cf Pope John Paul II, General Audience Address of August 17, 1983, 1-3: Insegnamenti VI, 2 (1983), 256f.
147. Heb 4:15.
148. Cf Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12f; Lk 4:1-13.
149. Cf 1 Cor 10:13.
150. Cf Mt 6:13; Lk 11:4.
151. 1 Pt 3:21.
152. Cf Rom 6:3f; Col 2:12.
153. Cf Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16.
154. Cf Mt 3:15.
155. St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 26, 13: CCL 36, 266.
156. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Eucharisticum Mysterium (May 25, 1967) 35 AAS 59 (1967), 560f.
157. Ps 78(77):38f.
158. Cf Jn 1:29; Is 53:7-12.
159. Cf Jn 5:27.
160. Cf Mt 9:2-7; Lk 5.-18-25; 7:47-49; Mk 2:3-12.
161. Cf Jn 3:17.
162. Jn 20:22; Mt 18:18; cf also, as regards Peter, Mt 16:19. Blessed Isaac of Stella in one of his talks emphasizes the full communion of Christ with the church in the forgiveness of sins: "The church can forgive nothing without Christ and Christ does not wish to forgive anything without the church. The church can forgive nothing except to a penitent, that is to say, to a person whom Christ has touched with his grace: Christ does not wish to consider anything forgiven in a person who despises the church": Sermo 11 (In Dominica II Post Epiphaniam, 1): PL 194, 1729.
163. Cf Mt 12:49f; Mk 3:33f; Lk 8:20f; Rom 8:29: "the firstborn among many brethren."
164. Cf Heb 2:17; 4:15.
165. Cf Mt 18:12f; Lk 15:4-6.
166. Cf Lk 5:31f.
167. Cf Mt 22:16.
168. Cf Acts 10:42.
169. Cf Jn 8:16.
170. Cf the address to the penitentiaries of the Roman patriarchal basilicas and to the priest confessors at the closing of the Jubilee of the Redemption auly 9, 1984): L'Osservatore Romano, July 9-10, 1984.
171. Jn 8:11.
172. Cf Ti 3:4.
173. Cf Council of Trent, Session XIV De Sacramento Poenitentiae, Chap. 1 and Canon 1: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, 703f, 711 (DS 1668-1670,1701).
174. Lumen Gentium, 11.
175. Cf Council of Trent, Session XIV, De Sacramento Poenitentiae, Chap. l and Canon 1: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. cit.,703f,711 (DS 1668-1670, 1701).
176. Cf Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Suaosanctum Concilium, 72.
177. Cf Rituale Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Conalii Oecumenici Vaticani II Instauratum, Auctoritate Pauli Vl Promulgatum: Ordo Paenitenttae, Vatican Polyglot Press, 1974.
178. The Council of Trent uses the attenuated expression "ad instar actus iudicialis" (Session XIV De Sacramento Poenitentiae, Chap. 6: ConciliorumOecumenicorum Decreta, ed. dt., 707 (DS 1685), in order to emphasize the difference from human tribunals. The new Rite of Penance makes reference to this function, Nos. 6b and 10a.
179. Cf Lk 5:31f: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" concluding: "I have...come to call...sinners to repentance"; Lk 9:2: "And he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal." The image of Christ the physician takes on new and striking elements if we compare it with the figure of the Servant of Yahweh, of whom the Book of Isaiah prophesies that "he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" and that with his stripes we are healed" (Is 53:4f).
180. St. Augustine, Sermo 82, 8: PL 38, 511.
181. Ibid., Sermo, 352, 3, 8:9: PL 39, 1558f.
182. Cf Ordo Paenitentiae, 6c.
183. Even the pagans recognized the existence of "divine" moral laws which have "always" existed and which are written in the depths of the human heart, cf Sophocles (Antigone, w. 450-460) ant Aristotle (Rhetor., Book I, Chap.15, 1375 a-b).
184. On the role of conscience cf what I said at the general audience of March 14, 1984, 3: Insegnamenti VII, 1 (1984), 683.
185. Cf Council of Trent, Session XIV De Sacramento Poenitentiae, Chap.4 De Contritione: Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta, ed. cit., 705 (DS 1676-1677). Of course, in order to approach the sacrament of penance it is sufficient to have attrition, or imperfect repentance, due more to fear than to love. But in the sphere of the sacrament, the penitent, under the action of the grace that he receives, "ex attrito fit conmtus," since penance really operates in the person who is welldisposed to conversion in love: cf Council of Trent, ibid., ed. cit., 705 (DS 1678).
186. Ordo Paenitentiae, 6c.
187. Cf Ps 51(50):12.
188. I had occasion to speak of these fundamental aspects of penance at the general audiences of May 19, 1982: Insegnamenti V, 2 (1982), 1758ff; February 28, 1979: Insegnamenti II (1979), 475-478; March 21, 1984: Insegnamenti VII, 1 (1984) 720-722. See also the norms of the Code of Canon Law concerning the place for administering the sacrament and concerning confessionals (Canon 964, 2-3)
189. I dealt with this subject concisely at the general audience of March 7, 1984: Insegnamenti VII, 1 (1984), 631-633.
190. Cf Gn 4:7, 15.
191. Cf 2 Sm 12.
192. Cf Lk 15:17-21.
193. Cf Presbyterorum Ordinis, 18.
194. Ordo Paenitentiae, 7b.
195. Cf ibid., 17.
196. Canons 961-963.
197. Cf Ez 18:23.
198. Cf Is 42:3; Mt 12:20.
199. Cf Familiaris Consortio, 84: AAS 74 (1982), 184-186.
200. Cf 1 Pt 1:1f; 3:8.
201. Ibid., 3:9, 13.
202. Ibid., 3:8, 9, 13.
203. Ibid., 3:17.
204. Litany of the Sacred Heart, cf 1 Jn 2:2; Eph 2:14; Rom 3:25; 5:11.
205. Pope John Paul II, General Audience Address of December 7, 1983, No. 2: Insegnamenti, VI, 2 (1983), 1264.
206. Ibid., General Audience Address of January 4, 1984:Insegnamenti, VII, 1 (1984), 16-18.
207. Cf Rom 1:5; 16:26.


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