Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Only God forgives sins. Since He is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.” Further, by virtue of His divine authority He gives this power to men to exercise in His name. Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action His whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that He acquired for us at the price of His blood. But He entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which He charged with the “ministry of reconciliation.” The apostle sent out “on behalf of Christ” with “God making His appeal” through Him and pleading: “Be reconciled to God.” It is a sacrament in which those who repent of their sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest and thus receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution.