We examine reconciliation and penance to better understand the modern world

Part of the present confusion about the Church’s teachings on the permanence of marriage has focused on apparent contradictions between the 2016 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Lætitia of Pope Francis and the 1984 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia of Pope St. John Paul II. We today begin a series in which Pope John Paul’s document will be presented in hopes that our readers may benefit from the instruction, patiently delivered with fidelity to the Gospel and the Magisterium, of its saintly author.

To speak of reconciliation and penance is for the men and women of our time an invitation to rediscover, translated into their own way of speaking, the very words with which our savior and teacher Jesus Christ began his preaching: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,”1 that is to say, accept the good news of love, of adoption as children of God and hence of brotherhood.

Why does the church put forward once more this subject and this invitation?

The concern to know better and to understand modern man and the contemporary world, to solve their puzzle and reveal their mystery, to discern the ferments of good and evil within them, has long caused many people to direct at man and the world a questioning gaze. It is the gaze of the historian and sociologist, philosopher and theologian, psychologist and humanist, poet and mystic: Above all, it is the gaze, anxious yet full of hope, of the pastor.

In an exemplary fashion this is shown on every page of the important pastoral constitution of the Second Vatican Council Gaudium et Spes on the church in the modern world, particularly in its wide-ranging and penetrating introduction. It is likewise shown in certain documents issued through the wisdom and charity of my esteemed predecessors, whose admirable pontificates were marked by the historic and prophetic event of that ecumenical council.

In common with others, the pastor too can discern among the various unfortunate characteristics of the world and of humanity in our time the existence of many deep and painful divisions.

1 Mk 1:15.

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 1

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