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Pope stresses need for sacramental confession

True conversion of heart must include confession of sins, said Pope John Paul II in a message written to the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, Cardinal James Stafford and made public yesterday.

Catholic World News reports that the Holy Father underlined the need for the faithful to confess their sins before approaching the Eucharist.

The two sacraments are closely related, he said, encouraging priests to "preach the true doctine about the necessity of the sacrament of reconciliation for approaching Communion."

The Pope lamented the fact that in many Catholic communities, the faithful have lost their appreciation of the need for regular Confession. Citing in particular the Council of Trent, he said that "in the Church's tradition, sacramental reconciliation has always been seen as closely connected with the sacrificial banquet of the Eucharist." He pointed to the penitential rite in the Mass as further illustration of that link.

"Only those who have a sincere desire to avoid mortal sin can receive the Body of Christ," the Pope said. He added that priests should encourage the faithful to be purified of venial sins, as well, before receiving Communion.

"We live in a society that seems to have lost the sense of God and of sin," the Pope said. For that reason, he observed, "Christ's invitation to conversion is all the more urgent."

The Code of Canon Law requires Catholics to confess their sins at least once a year, and to confess any grave sin before receiving the Eucharist. However, the faithful are encouraged to make more frequent use of the sacrament, and to confession minor faults in order to strengthen their spiritual lives.

Pope stresses need for sacramental confession (Catholic World News 14/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Apostolic Penitentiary
Theologians, historian explore decline in confessions (Catholic News Service 24/3/04)
The Sarament of Penance (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The new penitents (The Tablet 29/5/04)
Anne Rennie: The sacrament of Reconciliation (The Age 30/1/05)

Pope urges weekly Confession (CathNews 30/3/04)

15 Mar 2005