The Vatican congregation in charge of overseeing the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as the granting of indulgences has just finished a conference in Rome. The aim of the meeting was help people recover “the joy of the personal experience of the mercy of God” and to encourage priests to make this a priority.
According to the L’Osservatore Romano, the event which took place January 13 and 14 was, in the words of the head of the Apostolic Penitentary, Cardinal Francis Stafford, an occasion “to offer to the men and women of today, immersed in a post-modern culture, the opportunity to reflect profoundly on their interior life and ask God for forgiveness for the ‘abuse of power’ that is in their hands.”
“Our objective,” he said, “is to reflect deeply on the pastoral meaning of our Tribunal and why the Church, in her wisdom, created this tribunal of mercy. My hope is that the answer has been clear in these two days of meeting and conversation.”
The Vatican newspaper also quoted Manlio Sodi of the Salesian Pontifical University, who led a round-table discussing during the Symposium and said the issue of penitential services and general confessions, which are more common in North America, are “rites that fundamentally alter the very foundations of the personal act of Confession.”
“It is a practice that poses enormous problems. If the rite of Penance were observed and taught instead, the faithful would not be misguided,” Sodi explained.
L’Osservatore Romano also pointed out that the “traditional rite of Confession underscores the aspect of liberation which divine mercy freely offers to the penitent who wishes to be reconciled with God.”