The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
“Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the
only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God
and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses
from this kind of confession.”
There are profound reasons for
this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally
addresses every sinner: “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure
He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal
communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive
of reconciliation with God and with the Church.
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,”
Jesus showed himself to his apostles. “He breathed on
them, and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you
forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain
the sins of any, they are retained’” (
The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is con-
ferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of
conversion, confession, penance, or reconciliation.
The sinner wounds God’s honor and love, his own
human dignity as a man called to be a son of God, and
the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each
Christian ought to be a living stone.
To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and
nothing has worse consequences for sinners them-
selves, for the Church, and for the whole world.
To return to communion with God after having lost it
through sin is a process born of the grace of God who is
rich inmercy and solicitous for the salvation of men. One
must ask for this precious gift for oneself and for others.
The movement of return to God, called conversion and
repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins
committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more
in the future. Conversion touches the past and the
future and is nourished by hope in God’s mercy.