.- Meeting with bishops of Western Canada, in Rome for their “Ad Limina” visits, Pope Benedict insisted, this morning, on the need for a renewed understanding of sin and appreciation for the Sacrament of Penance in order to foster reconciliation and healing among people.
The Pope reflected on the three characters from the parable of the prodigal son, insisting that all three have an important lesson, “the Father in his abundant mercy, the younger son in his joy at being forgiven, and the elder brother in his tragic isolation.”
Benedict used the parable as an introduction to address, “the loss of a sense of sin,” which the bishops apparently had identified as an area of concern for their dioceses. The Holy Father applauded the bishops for their focus on the subject, which, he said, “reflects an eager hope that the faithful will experience God’s boundless love as a call to deepen their ecclesial unity and overcome the division and fragmentation that so often wound today’s families and communities.”
In fact he said, "the Bishop’s responsibility to indicate the destructive presence of sin is readily understood as a service of hope: it strengthens believers to avoid evil and to embrace the perfection of love and the plenitude of Christian life.”
“I wish therefore to commend your promotion of the Sacrament of Penance. While this Sacrament is often considered with indifference, what it effects is precisely the fullness of healing for which we long. A new-found appreciation of this Sacrament will confirm that time spent in the confessional draws good from evil, restores life from death, and reveals anew the merciful face of the Father,” he said.
In order to understand the gift of reconciliation, however, Benedict said a healthy understanding of sin is necessary. “While manifestations of sin abound – greed and corruption, betrayed relationships and exploitation of persons – the recognition of individual sinfulness has waned.” Ultimately, he continued, forgetting the impact of sin and the power of forgiveness, leads to “a weakening of our relationship with God.”
Such a forgetfulness of sin and forgiveness is particularly noticeable in “societies marked by secularist post-Enlightenment ideology.” In these societies which exclude God, the Pope said, “the sense of offence against God - the true sense of sin - dissipates; just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility.”
However he continued, recognition of sin and the need of forgiveness, “is an integral part of the truth about the human person.”
“When the need to seek forgiveness and the readiness to forgive are forgotten, in their place a disturbing culture of blame and litigiousness arises. This ugly phenomenon, however, can be dispelled. Following the light of Christ’s healing truth is to say with the father, ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours’ and we must be glad ‘because your brother ... who was lost ... is found’ (Lk 15:31-32),” he concluded.
The Pope briefly mentioned the continued work of reconciliation and understanding among aboriginal people in Canada, encouraging the bishops to “address with compassion and determination the underlying causes of the difficulties surrounding the social and spiritual needs of the Aboriginal faithful.”
Pope Benedict offered his prayers for and Apostolic Blessing upon all those in the dioceses of Western Canada.