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Part Two

indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins

may be remitted.





elebration of



acrament of




Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The

elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and

blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the

conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance;

the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known

to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the

priest’s absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dis-

missal with the blessing of the priest.


The Byzantine Liturgy recognizes several formulas of absolution,

in the form of invocation, which admirably express the mystery of forgive-

ness: “May the same God, who through the Prophet Nathan forgave David

when he confessed his sins, who forgave Peter when he wept bitterly, the

prostitute when she washed his feet with her tears, the publican, and the

prodigal son, through me, a sinner, forgive you both in this life and in the

next and enable you to appear before his awe-inspiring tribunal without

condemnation, he who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.”


The sacrament of Penance can also take place in the framework of a

communal celebration

in which we prepare ourselves together for confession

and give thanks together for the forgiveness received. Here, the personal

confession of sins and individual absolution are inserted into a liturgy of the

word of God with readings and a homily, an examination of conscience

conducted in common, a communal request for forgiveness, the Our Father

and a thanksgiving in common. This communal celebration expresses more

clearly the ecclesial character of penance. However, regardless of its manner

of celebration the sacrament of Penance is always, by its very nature, a

liturgical action, and therefore an ecclesial and public action.



In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a


celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolu­


Grave necessity of this sort can arise when there is imminent danger

of death without sufficient time for the priest or priests to hear each

penitent’s confession. Grave necessity can also exist when, given the

number of penitents, there are not enough confessors to hear individual

confessions properly in a reasonable time, so that the penitents through

no fault of their own would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy

Communion for a long time. In this case, for the absolution to be valid the

faithful must have the intention of individually confessing their grave sins

in the time required.


The diocesan bishop is the judge of whether or not

the conditions required for general absolution exist.


A large gathering

of the faithful on the occasion of major feasts or pilgrimages does not

constitute a case of grave necessity.


91 Cf.



92 Cf. CIC, can. 962 § 1.

93 Cf. CIC, can. 961 § 2.

94 Cf. CIC, can. 961 § 1.