Absolution is an integral part of the Sacrament of Penance, in Roman Catholicism. The penitent makes a sacramental confession of all mortal sins to a priest and prays an act of contrition. The priest then assigns a penance and imparts absolution in the name of the Trinity, on behalf of Christ Himself, using a fixed sacramental formula. The traditional formula is:
The current formula, after the liturgical reforms of 1970, is:
The essential part of the formula (the words which must be said for the absolution – and the entire Sacrament of Penance – to take effect, or, in Church law terms, be "sacramentally valid") are: "Ego te absolvo", in English "I absolve you".
Absolution of sins most importantly forgives mortal sins (and, if one does not commit a mortal sin after having been validly absolved, enables one to die in the "state of grace", able to eventually enter heaven); but it also allows the valid and non-sinful reception of the sacraments (especially the Eucharist at Mass), the lawful exercise of ecclesiastical offices and ministries by laity or clerics, and full participation in the life of the Church. However, for certain especially grave sins to be forgiven and for the accompanying Church penalties to be lifted, there are formal processes which must take place along with the absolution, which must then be given (depending on the seriousness of the type of sin) either by the Pope (through the Apostolic Penitentiary), the local Bishop, or a priest authorized by the Bishop.
This formula is preceded by other short prayers similar to those used at Mass after the Confiteor. Suspension, in the context of the formula for absolution, refers to a canonical penalty which can be incurred only by clerics; therefore, it is omitted when absolving a layman.