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Pope encourages frequent Confession March 29, 2004

Pope John Paul II has called attention to the importance of sacramental Confession in the spiritual lives of all Catholics, especially priests.

The Pope highly recommended the practice of weekly confession, which he follows himself. He remarked that "those who go to Confession frequently, and do so with the desire to make process" will notice the strides that they make in their spiritual lives. "It would be an illusion to seek after holiness, according to the vocation one has received from God, without partaking frequently of this sacrament of conversion and reconciliation," the Pope said.

Along with the remission of sins, the sacrament also provides spiritual assistance in other ways, the Pope continued. He remarked that Penance "involves purification, in both the act of the penitent, who lays bare his conscience because of the deep need to be pardoned and reborn."

For priests, the Pontiff said, the sacrament is a dual gift, since priests "are called to exercise the sacramental ministry and also to have our own sins pardoned." He said that "the joy of pardoning and being pardoned go hand in hand."

The Holy Father spoke on Saturday, March 27, to participants in a conference organized by the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, under the direction of Cardinal James Stafford. Each year during Lent, the Apostolic Penitentiary brings together seminarians and priests who hear confessions in the basilicas of Rome, to discuss the sacrament and to receive the Pope's encouragement and direction.

Speaking on Vatican Radio prior to this year's meeting, Msgr. Gianfranco Giroti, who serves on the Apostolic Penitentiary, acknowledged that the sacrament of Confession has fallen into disuse in recent year. He attributed the decline in regular Confession to a "weakening of the sense of sin."