In a pastoral letter read in all churches of the Portsmouth diocese last Sunday. Bishop. Worlock reminded Catholics that the theme of Holy Year, which began on Tuesday, was reconciliation.
This meant "turning back to God if we have become in any way separated from Him, and restoring Christian love and friendship with those from whom we may have become es tranged . .
"For a start, reconciliation means both sorrow and forgiveness. So I have asked the priests to arrange special services throughout the year to help you to he truly sorry for any offences against God and His law.
"Through the Sacraments especially Confession and Holy Communion — you will he able to strengthen your commitment to be witnesses in this life to Christ's love and sacrifice for mankind. This sacramental reconciliation lies at the heart of our holy Year observance.
"I hope that during the year most parishes will be able to arrange days of recollection, retreats and even missions. The religious orders can help by providing preachers and visiting priests to hear confessions in the parish churches.
"To as§ist you in preparing for the Sacrament of Penance — both in the examination of conscience and in the development of heart-felt contrition there will be penitential services. In some churches it will he possible to arrange for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during Saturday evening confession times."
Forgiveness was only one aspect of reconciliation, Bishop Worlock continued. "We cannot he reconciled unless we ourselves are prepared to forgive. In our efforts to achieve reconciliation with God we have to think also of others. We have to see what we can do to bring Christ's mercy, charity and justice to those in need. We cannot receive the Bread of Life without thinking of today's widespread hunger, material and spiritual. To help meet these needs must be part of our Holy Year programme.
"We must remember also that sin does damage — to ourselves and to others. Even when there is sorrow and forgiveness. there is still need for reparation: the damage has still to be repaired. If we have done someone an injustice. we have to try to make it good.
"This is easier in some things than others: if we hilve taken something, we must try to give it it back. But with some sins is not a straight question of restitution. So we have special need to do penance.
"In the old days those who had sinned and thereby damaged the Christian community were required to do public penance. Indeed it was imposed by the Church for set periods. But on certain conditions, once the sins had been forgiven. the Church wiped out this requirement of temporal punishment. In doing this in a particular case she was acting as minister of Redemption, drawing on the merits of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints.
"This is the basis of the Church's 'teaching on indulgences which are seen today as a promise of the Church's intercession with God for remission of the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven. An indulgence is no substitute for penance. It is the action of the Church, by her prayer, to support the efforts of the individual to overcome the consequences of wrong-doing. It is effectual only when that person is genuinely penitent and promises determined efforts in the future.
"A Holy Year is always linked with this notion of a plenary pardon because it represents a new beginning, a wiping clean of the indebtedness due to sin. It is granted on strict conditions, involving the fulfilment of specified acts of penance and prayer. Hence the traditional pilgrimages to the tomb of St. Peter. "Rut the Church has no wish to restrict this 'gift of in dulgence' to those who can travel to Rome. For this new Holy Year conditions have been laid down OS to how it may be obtained throughout the world by those in a state of grace.
"Let it he clearly understood that thrs jubilee indulgence is no automatic thing depending on where you are. There must he Sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayer for the Pope's intentions. And it can be gained only after taking part in a community celebration or service on the occasion of a pilgrimage or visit to a church approved by the bishop for the purpose.
"I have set up a diocesan Holy Year Committee which will advise the parishes. I have 111S0 appointed the Cathedral, the chapel at Park Place, and the Abbey Churches at Quart, Douai and Farnborough as places at which regularly during the year special. services will he held at which the Plenary Pardon may be obtained. "I.or the rest I have said that, God willing. I will try to come to every deanery during Lent and in the largest church concelebrate Mass with the priests of the deanery. At that Mass. on the conditions I have explained, the Jubilee indulgence may be gained. But this is only one occasion. The work of reconciliation must he constant throughout the year."