It is deeply significant that the Apostles Creed affirms
our belief in the forgiveness of sins immediately after professing our faith in
the holy Catholic Church. These two mysteries belong together.
On Easter Sunday, Jesus told the two saddened disciples on
the way to Emmaus: You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and
on the third day rise from the dead, and that in His name repentance for the
forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations beginning from
Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).
What was the Savior saying? He was not only predicting that
the gospel would be preached to all nations. He foretold that sins would be
forgiven to those who repented.
The key element in this article of the Creed is that the
Church founded by Christ actually has the power to forgive sins in His name. We
therefore not only believe that God is merciful, nor only that He forgives
those who repent of their wrongdoing. We believe that Christ entrusted His
Church with a share in His own divine power to remove the guilt and the penalty
due to sins, no less than He had done personally during His public ministry in
The heart of Catholic Christianity is in the preceding
statement. We believe that the same Jesus who told the paralytic, Courage,
son, your sins are forgiven, and told the sinful woman in the house of Simon
the Pharisee, Your sins are forgiven (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48), continues His
mission of healing souls through the Church that He founded.
It is not only that Gods mercy is to be proclaimed, but He
literally remits sin by the ministry of the Church now on earth. Thus sins are
remitted by the sacrament of baptism, as witnessed on Pentecost Sunday. And
sins after baptism are also remitted by what the Church calls the power of the
keys. This power is not possessed by all Christians, but only by those who
have been ordained to the priesthood. This has always been the Churchs
understanding of Christs words on Easter Sunday night when Christ told the apostles:
Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven;
for those whose sin you retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23).
Claiming that no one but God can forgive sins, the Pharisees
objected when Christ told the paralyzed man, who was lowered in front of Him,
Son, your sins are forgiven you (Mark 2:5). but God can share this power with
It is this sharing in the divine power of forgiving sins
that the Church believes she possesses. It is the greatest gift that the
merciful Christ bequeathed to a sinful world until the end of time.
Copyright © 2002 Inter Mirifica
Pocket Catholic Catechism