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French Bishops Warn Against Phone Confessions

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PARIS, FEB. 26, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The bishops of France are warning the faithful that a private initiative to offer confessions over the phone is not sponsored by the Catholic Church.

Msgr. Bernard Podvin, spokesman of the French bishops’ conference, released a statement last week in which he noted that «With the Lord’s Line, Confess Over the Phone» is «not backed in any way by the Catholic Church in France.»

The initiative was launched in conjunction with the beginning of Lent, and notes on its Web site that the team is «for the most part Catholic,» and that the service is «in agreement with the principles of the Catholic Church.»

Two telephone numbers are given for the public to call, with the last four digits of the first one spelling «Dieu», which in French means God.

The calls cost 12 eurocents (16 cents) a minute, or 34 eurocents (46 cents) a minute if you call the first line. The Web site says 40% of the proceeds from the more expensive line will go to charity, without offering more specifics.

In his statement, Msgr. Podvin explained that while a phone service is «necessary and beneficial» — in particular to alleviate «the loneliness of elderly and people with handicaps» — the sacrament of confession requires the physical presence of a priest.
He added that the initiative introduces «confusion on the notion of confession.»

«For the faithful Catholic,» the spokesman clarified, «[confession] has a sacramental meaning which requires the effective presence of a priest.»
«The coincidence of the launching of this line with the beginning of Lent has done no more than increase confusion,» Msgr. Podvin lamented.

«Parishes, shrines and chaplaincies have established numerous places for the sacrament of confession,» he continued. «Obviously, all of us want, in this Year for Priests, to have more priests to be close and available to listen to people.»

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