Penance, most distinctly among the Sacraments, leads to reconciliation

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):

The sacrament of orders is intended to give to the church the pastors who, besides being teachers and guides, are called to be witnesses and workers of unity, builders of the family of God, and defenders and preservers of the communion of this family against the sources of division and dispersion.

The sacrament of matrimony, the exaltation of human love under the action of grace, is a sign of the love of Christ for the church. But it is also a sign of the victory which Christ grants to couples in resisting the forces which deform and destroy love, in order that the family born from this sacrament may be a sign also of the reconciled and reconciling church for a world reconciled in all its structures and institutions.

Finally, the anointing of the sick in the trial of illness and old age and especially at the Christian’s final hour is a sign of definitive conversion to the Lord and of total acceptance of suffering and death as a penance for sins. And in this is accomplished supreme reconciliation with the Father.

However, among the sacraments there is one which, though it has often been called the sacrament of confession because of the accusation of sins which takes place in it, can more appropriately be considered by antonomasia* the sacrament of penance, as it is in fact called. And thus it is the sacrament of conversion and reconciliation. The recent synod particularly concerned itself with this sacrament because of its importance with regard to reconciliation.

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 27

* Or synecdoche. — Ed.

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