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The Ministry of Forgiveness in a Praxis of Reconciliation

Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S.

As we look to the role of the Church in the process of national reconciliation after two decades of armed conflict, it is important to identify what things we, as the Church, can contribute to the process.

In this presentation I would like to focus on a central element that is both distinctive to the Christian tradition and at the same time one of the most difficult areas in which to work. I am speaking of forgiveness.

We all know how central forgiveness was to the ministry of Jesus. He often shocked the religious authorities by the forthright way that he offered forgiveness to those who were considered sinners. He mandated his disciples to forgive over and above the forgiveness that wrongdoers might request: indeed we are enjoined to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. When asked to teach his disciples how to pray, he told them to ask God to forgive them their sins in the same way they forgave others. And after the resurrection he passed on to disciples this power to forgive.

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