Benedict XVI Extols Sacrament of Penance

Says Priests Need to Make It a Priority

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The baptized need to rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation so that they can experience "the boundless renewing power of divine love," says Benedict XVI.



The Pope said this today when receiving in audience Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, with the prelates and officials of that tribunal, as well as the penitentiary fathers of the patriarchal basilicas of Rome.

"In the gesture of absolution, uttered in the name and on account of the Church, the confessor becomes the conscious means of a wonderful event of grace," the Holy Father said in his address.

"On adhering with docility to the magisterium of the Church, he becomes minister of the consoling mercy of God, makes the reality of sin manifest and at the same time the boundless renewing power of divine love, a love that gives life again," the Pontiff added.

Thus confession becomes "a spiritual rebirth, which transforms the penitent into a new creature," he stated.

Only God

Benedict XVI continued: "Only God can realize this miracle of grace, and he does so through the words and gestures of the priest. On experiencing the Lord's tenderness and forgiveness, the penitent more easily acknowledges the gravity of sin and reinforces his decision to avoid it and to remain and grow in his renewed friendship with him.

"In virtue of presbyterial ordination, the confessor carries out a particular service 'in persona Christi.'"

The Holy Father invited priests to also experience God's forgiveness: "Given such a lofty responsibility, human strength is undoubtedly inadequate."

The Pope continued: "We cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to others, if we are not personally penetrated by it.

"Christ has chosen us, dear priests, to be the only ones who can forgive sins in his name: Therefore, it is a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority."

"How many people in difficulties seek the support and consolation of Christ!" Benedict XVI added. "How many penitents find the peace and joy in confession that they have been pursuing for a long time! How can we not acknowledge that also in our time, marked by so many religious and social challenges, this sacrament must be rediscovered and proposed again."