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Confession Before First Communion (Sanctus Pontifex)

by Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Congregation for the Clergy

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    The following "declaration on putting the sacrament of penance before the First Communion of children" was issued jointly by the Sacred Congregations of the Sacraments and for the Clergy.
  • Publisher & Date:
    May 24, 1973

The Sainted Pontiff, Pius X, basing his action on the prescription of canon 21 of the Fourth Lateran Council, stipulated by his decree, Quam singulari, of 8 August, 1910 (AAS, pp. 577-583), that right from the age of discretion children should receive the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. This precept, which has been reduced to practice throughout the universal Church, has produced and even today produces very many benefits for Christian life and spiritual perfection.

The "Addendum" to the General Catechetical Directory, however, which was promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy on 11 April, 1967 (AAS, 1972, pp. 97-176), strengthened the practice of putting the sacrament of penance before the First Communion of children by these words: "After having weighed everything and having in view the common and general practice which cannot be directly derogated from without the approval of the Holy See, and after having heard the episcopal conferences, the said Holy See judges it fitting that the current custom in the Church of putting confession before First Communion be preserved."1

The same document considered certain new practices, which had been introduced in some places and which permitted first reception of the Eucharist without reception of the sacrament of penance and which allowed only that those experiments could be continued temporarily "after first having had communication with the Apostolic See and being of one mind with the said See."2

After having attentively considered the matter, and keeping in view the wishes of the bishops, the Sacred Congregations for the Discipline of the Sacraments and for the Clergy, by this document do declare, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI, that experiments of this kind, already carried out for two years, must have an end put to them simultaneously with the dosing of the 1972-1973 school year and, for the future, the decree, Quam singulari, must be obeyed everywhere and by all.

Given at Rome, the 24th day of May, 1973.


1. N. 5; C.L.D., 7, p. 838.

2. Ibid.

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