Washington turns on lights for confession

In a novel attempt to bring people back to confession, the Archdiocese of Washington DC has launched a Lenten billboard and radio blitz with the slogan "The light is on for you."

The Washington Post reports that noting that the number of Catholics taking part in the key rite has plunged, the Archdiocese of Washington is launching its biggest marketing blitz this week, using ads on buses, subway trains, a billboard, 100,000 brochures and radio spots in an effort to get people back to the confessional.

The unusual campaign - whose slogan, " The light is on for you," highlights the church's alarm that Catholics are ignoring a fundamental ritual meant to keep them holy and close to God.

"People go online and confess all sorts of things, but they don't do it in a way of apology. And it's very hard to verbalise what you did wrong," said archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs, letting loose an admission of her own: "That's why I like to go when I'm in Rome, because I won't know anyone."

The campaign, the first big public endeavour by the new archbishop, Donald Wuerl, is timed to start with Lent, the 40-day period of reflection and penitence.

Clergy say the rise in therapy and self-help may be a contributing factor in the decline in Catholics' going to confession, the Post says.

According to Ms Gibbs, watching internet pornography is the most common baggage unloaded to priests, who have been protected under civil law from having to reveal confessions.

Wollongong inaugurates Year of Welcome

Meanwhile, in another Lenten initiative, Wollongong Bishop Peter Ingham is launching a Year of Welcome for the diocese

"At the time of the Great Jubilee in 2000, Pope John Paul, opening the Holy Door at St Peter's, said, 'Throw open the doors to Christ', Bishop Ingham writes in a letter to the diocese.

"This Lent, in our diocesan Year of Welcome, I invite us to think about how we can revitalise our welcome to Jesus and our welcome to others," Bishop Ingham said.

"Perhaps we have closed the door to a member of our family, to a loved one or to a friend. Lent challenges us to try to heal and be reconciled in this relationship."

He says the Holy Spirit calls the faithful to be more welcoming to others, "especially to people who are different from us".

The Bishop singled out people living with a disability, people who are hearing impaired, migrant and refugee people, as well as people who have a different sexual orientation, those who suffer a mental illness, single parents, people in prison, people who are depressed or addicted, and non-Christians as people who should be welcomed by church communities.

Catholics called from the idiot box to confession (Washington Post, 22/2/07)
Lenten Pastoral Letter (Bishop Peter Ingham, Wollongong diocese)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Washington
Diocese of Wollongong

23 Feb 2007