Forgiveness and Absolution

Dear Catholic Exchange:

What is the difference between forgiveness and absolution?

Kelliann Wall

Dear Kelliann,

Peace in Christ!

A common definition of “forgiveness” or “to forgive” is “to grant free pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.” Absolution is the sacramental act of a priest in the confessional by which he pronounces Christ’s forgiveness upon the penitent. Thus the Catechism refers to the Sacrament of Penance as “the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution God grants the penitent ‘pardon and peace.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1424, citation omitted).

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