August 29, 2016

Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves, but requires the mediation of the Church, Canada's bishops say in a new statement on the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Simply asking God for forgiveness "in one's own mind and heart" is not enough, because "Jesus himself entrusted to the Church the ministry of the forgiveness of sins," says the text, The Beauty of Mercy: Pope Francis and Confession.

The document compiled by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' (CCCB) Episcopal Commission for Doctrine presents a series of quotes from Pope Francis.

It is intended to aid Catholics in celebrating the Jubilee Year of Mercy and to "encourage and challenge both penitents and priest confessors," according to a news release.

The four-page text is divided into the following headings:

  • God never tires of forgiving us.
  • Finding God's forgiveness through the Church.
  • Responsibilities of priest confessors.
  • Confession in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

"Throughout his teachings, the Holy Father has put forth the sacrament of Confession as a gift that permits each one of us to encounter the mercy of God in a personal and profound way," the document says.

"[The pope] continually stresses that the sacrament of Reconciliation is a profound gift that strengthens our personal relationship with Christ, heals us, and renews our Baptism when we were first incorporated into the community of faith."

The document's longest section deals with the responsibilities of priest-confessors, in helping penitents find peace, understanding, liberation and happiness.

"Being merciful is not the same as being lenient as a confessor - nor is being rigid a way to offer mercy," Pope Francis says.

"Neither the lax nor the rigid confessor 'treats the penitent as brother, taking him by the hand and accompanying him in his conversion!'" the document says. "Rather, the truly merciful confessor listens, accompanies and encourages."