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Definition: confession from Philip's Encyclopedia

Acknowledgement of sins. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, it may be made by a congregation in the course of worship, or by individual penitents.


Summary Article: confession
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In religion, the confession of sins practised in Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and most Far Eastern Christian churches, and since the early 19th century revived in Anglican and Lutheran churches. It is the sacrament of penance (sorrow for sin). Confession to a priest (who in Catholic doctrine is divinely invested with authority to give absolution) was made obligatory at least once a year by the Lateran Council in 1215, although more frequent confession is encouraged.

Both John the Baptist's converts and the early Christian church practised public confession. The Roman Catholic penitent in recent times has always confessed alone to the priest in a confessional box, but from 1977 such individual confession might be preceded by group discussion, or the confession itself might be made openly by members of the group.

Christians confess their sins to a priest to demonstrate sorrow at having sinned, and promise to try not to sin in the future. The priest forgives in God's name, using the formula: ‘In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ The intention of confession is to bring people back to God.

Some Christians feel that they can confess their sins directly to God and ask for forgiveness without using a priest as an intermediary. Others make their confession to a priest as God's representative on earth. Public confessions are made at most church services. At the service of the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Mass), the confession is made before the congregation receives Communion. After making the confession together, the congregation join in with the priest's ‘Amen’ (‘let it be’ or ‘so be it’) as a sign of agreement with the intention of the prayers.

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Sacrament of Penance

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