In Christianity, a pronouncement of forgiveness of sins made to a person who has repented. This rite is based on the forgiveness that Jesus extended to sinners during his ministry. In the early church, the priest absolved repentant sinners after they had confessed and performed their penance in public. During the Middle Ages, it became the custom for priests to hear confession and grant absolution privately. In Roman Catholicism penance is a sacrament, and the priest has the power to absolve a contrite sinner who promises to make satisfaction to God. In Protestant churches, the confession of sin is usually made in a formal prayer by the whole congregation, after which the minister announces their absolution.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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