Reconciliatio et paenitentia
|Part of a series on|
|Penance and Reconciliation
in the Catholic Church
John Paul II began the exhortation by recalling from the Gospel of Mark 1:15, the very words with which Jesus began his preaching: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel". Building on that theme, the pope addressed "reconciliation and penance in the mission of the Church today". Continuing his teaching on the mystery of Redemption, the pope presented Jesus as the Reconciler of a shattered world and urged the Church and the world to rediscover the path of penance, the only path that can lead to full reconciliation.
The exhortation also discussed John Paul II's view of "structural sin". The pope insists on sin as a free personal act. He views "social sin" in three ways: first that personal sin has social effects, second, that some sins directly affect the neighbor, and third that social sin refers to relationships between human communities. The pope rejected the separation and contrasting of personal and social sin in a way that leads to the dilution and eventual abolition of personal sin, and the substitution of social guilt and responsibility in its place.
The pope used the parable of the prodigal son to explain the process of conversion and reconciliation, and that God the Father is "rich in mercy" and always ready to forgive and that Reconciliation is a gift on his part, stating that for the Church her "mission of reconciliation is the initiative, full of compassionate love and mercy, of that God who is love.
The exhortation has three chapters, as well as an introduction and conclusions. The introduction discusses the modern world's divisions and difficulties. It stresses the inherent desire of humanity for reconciliation. The first chapter discusses the fact that the mission of the Church remains the conversion of hearts.
The second chapter is titled: "The Love That is Greater than Sin" and singles out sin as the cause of the wounds that individuals inflict on themselves, on God and their neighbors. It discusses the personal and social dimensions of sin. The third chapter discusses the means by which the Church fosters penance, reconciliation and healing, returning to the theme of Mark 1:15: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel".
The final chapter includes a call for unity and conversion of hearts. The teachings on structural sin in this exhortation were also later discussed in the pope's 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis.