While the Sacrament of Reconciliation is available, and widely used, at every World Youth Day, WYD 2011 in Madrid is noticeably ratcheting up the emphasis on the Church’s sacrament.
One way this is being done is by having Pope Benedict XVI hear confessions of WYD pilgrims. To the best of my knowledge, this has not happened previously at any WYD.
Yago de la Cierva, WYD executive officer,said that when the Pope was told that he could hear confessions, his first question was how many. When they responded that he could hear perhaps two or three, the Holy Father’s response was, “That’s all?”
Clearly, the Pope sees confession as an important part of being Catholic, of witnessing to the rest of the world that sin exists, and the importance of being forgiven and reconciled back to God.
Another action that’s taken place to highlight confession at this year’s WYD, is that Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has granted all of the 2,000 priests attending WYD the ability to lift excommunication and to grant absolution in confession for those who have committed the sin of abortion.
According to the Church’s Code of Canon Law, anyone who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Church. This penalty can only be lifted by the Pope, bishops, or priests who have been given permission by a bishop. Priests hearing confessions at WYD have been granted special permission to deal with such cases between August 16 – 22.
Madrid has become a center for abortion. The rate of abortions there has grown from 51,000 in 1996 to 120,000 in 2007. One out of every five pregnancies there ends in abortion.
This action was taken so that “all the faithful who attend the celebrations of World Youth Day can more easily access the fruits of divine grace, which opens the door to a new life for them,” said the archdiocese.