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In the sacrament of penance, the act by which a qualified priest, having the necessary jurisdiction, remits the guilt and penalty due to sin. The new formula of absolution, since the Second Vatican Council, is: "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." To which the penitent answers, "Amen." In this formula essential words are: "I absolve you." For centuries, the Church used the deprecatory form of absolution, e.g., "May God absolve you from your sins." This was really declarative in meaning, as is clear from the fact that in the whole of tradition the priest who absolved was looked upon as a judge who actually absolved, even though he used the subjunctive mood to express his affirmative judgment. (Etym. Latin absolvere, to free from; to absolve, acquit.)
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.