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 CNS Story:

POPE-PENANCE Mar-29-2007 (720 words) With photos. xxxi

Pope tells young people penance is sacrament of God's mercy, love

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sacrament of penance is the sacrament of God's mercy and an outpouring of God's healing love, Pope Benedict XVI told young people from Rome.

"With this sacrament's penitential cleansing, we are readmitted into full communion with God and with the church," the pope told the young people attending a March 29 penance service.

The evening prayer service was held in a packed St. Peter's Basilica where Pope Benedict and some 200 priests heard individual confessions and offered absolution.

So many young people requested the free tickets to the liturgy that hundreds of them had to watch on television screens in the Vatican audience hall; they were joined by dozens of priests who ensured they, too, had an opportunity to receive the sacrament.

In his homily, Pope Benedict said the service was "an encounter around the cross, a celebration of the mercy of God, which each of you can experience personally in the sacrament of confession."

"Yes, the cross reveals the fullness of God's love for us, a crucified love that does not end with the scandal of Good Friday, but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection and Ascension into heaven and in the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love through whom, including this evening, sins will be forgiven and pardon and peace will be given," he said.

After the communal prayers, Pope Benedict removed his heavy purple cope and, dressed in an alb with a purple stole, went into a confessional where he spent 35 minutes offering the sacrament to penitents behind a screen.

In addition to the pope's homily, the young people were led in their examination of conscience with "requests for forgiveness" based on the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

Seven young people took turns reading the prayer while seven of their peers lighted candles at the foot of a crucifix.

Sins connected with lust, the prayer said, "make us slaves of sex," place "individuals, families and society at risk," and fuel prostitution and pedophilia.

It included a plea for forgiveness for watching pornography on video or over the Internet and for believing that "every instinct must find immediate satisfaction."

"Help us to keep our hearts and minds chaste and not to have sexual relations before or outside of matrimony (and) to avoid perversion and the bizarre," it said.

"Teach us modesty and dignity in the way we dress, watch over our gazes and fantasies," it said.

Turning to gluttony, the prayer asked pardon not just for overeating, but also for smoking and for alcohol and drug abuse -- "dependencies that make us slaves."

The prayer asked God's help in practicing abstinence to "detoxify the body and the mind. Help us discover the healthy pleasure of life."

In asking forgiveness for greed, the prayer included a request for pardon for working on Sundays, for being dishonest and for not giving to charity.

"Forgive the terrible consequences of an obsession with money: family fights, anxiety and false fears, betrayal, fraud, cheating, lying, violence and hardness of heart," it said.

"Forgive the injustices of society, the dramatic inequalities between rich and poor countries, the wars, the inhuman exploitation and the confusion of consciences produced by a system of accumulation and consumption that does everything to excite the longing to possess," the prayer said.

In reflecting on sloth and laziness, the prayer asked forgiveness for dependency on "stimuli and exterior pleasures" and for the times when boredom leads to distraction during prayer.

"Forgive us when sloth generates disgust and boredom for every healthy and spiritual activity," it continued.

The prayer of pardon for envy also asked forgiveness for the selfishness that prevents the people from loving others and wanting only the best for them, and for the times "we call envy 'healthy competitiveness.'"

The reflection on wrath also asked forgiveness for anger, animosity, aggressiveness, the desire for vengeance, "the temptation to make those who humiliate us pay" and sharp, cutting remarks made about others.

Asking forgiveness for pride, the prayer also asked God's pardon for times when participants acted only to win praise and approval, for seeking power and fame or for showing off their physical beauty or talents "given to us by God."


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