RECONCILIATION AND PENANCE
OF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS
CLERGY AND FAITHFUL
ON RECONCILIATION AND PENANCE
IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TODAY
ORIGIN AND MEANING OF THE DOCUMENT
1. 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.