[FOUNTAIN]A time for confession

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[FOUNTAIN]A time for confession

These are busy days for Roman Catholic priests. Those who follow the Roman Catholic faith know that Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, began last month. During this period, anyone who is Roman Catholic is supposed to confess to a priest. The priests listen to the sins of the faithful and the unfaithful, often spending long hours in one-on-one sessions, a truly full time of the year for the clerics.

It's often said that the Roman Catholic Church is tears and water. The water stands for the water used to baptize people, while the tears represent the weeping of sinners during confession. Confession is the most important ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church, along with the Eucharist and baptism. Baptizing is the ceremony that opens the Roman Catholic world to a believer, while confession is the ceremony through which a sinner tries to go back to the true teachings of the Roman Catholic faith.

Human beings may commit a crime, but the right to forgive them rests solely with the Almighty. The history of confession goes back to the time when Jesus Christ gave the 12 apostles the right to forgive in his absence. The given right of the apostles was passed down to bishops and from them it went to priests. Hence, all the priests in the world have the right to forgive.

In the early days of Christendom, the confession ceremony was very strict. Sinners had to get their heads completely shaved and wear clothing made of horsehair that inflicted bodily pain. They had to throw themselves at the feet of priests and beg for forgiveness publicly, sometimes even receiving lashings. After the confession, for a certain period of time, sinners were allowed only bread and water. Nowadays, sinners who choose to confess do so in closed chambers and might receive as discipline a reading assignment from the Bible or an order to spend time doing volunteer work. Those are practices that have been going on since the 16th century.

Kim Keun-tae of the Millennium Democratic Party used the expression "like a Catholic confession" when he announced publicly that he had received illegal political funds. I find his words appropriate. Although he may not actually be a Roman Catholic, he borrowed the language and made use of it to confess his sins.

Out of the 270 lawmakers, only about 60 are said to follow the Roman Catholic faith. Regardless of their faith, I would like to see other politicians confess their wrongdoings to the voters as well. After all, confessions are done not for punishment but to ask forgiveness.

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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