Going to Confession in another language


So I’m going to be going to Italy for study abroad next semester. I speak English (and some French) but very little Italian. Will Confession still count in the instance that the priest doesn’t understand English, and/or if I don’t understand Italian? I’m not even sure if this will end up being an issue, since I’m not even there yet, but I was just wondering. They might have an English-speaking priest since we’re staying at a study center owned by my university, but if they don’t, would my Confession still count?


As long as he understands your sins and you understand the penance you should be okay. I’d carry an Italian-English dictionary just in case. He doesn’t have to be totally fluent in English.


As far as I know, the Priest is required to hear your sins and he must be able to understand what you are saying, therefore he will need to be able to understand your English a little bit. It is part of the requirements from his angle. If you need help, contact you travel agent or the desk at the hotel where you will be staying and they will most likely be able to direct you to a parish that can accommodate your needs in advance of departure. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait till you return. It couldn’t hurt to make a good Confession before the flight, just in case anyway. If you are used to going in a regular basis, let them know that when you ask. They may even direct you to a local Monastery or something like that. But do ask before you depart. Travel agents are actually quite good at finding religious accommodations for folks. It is one of the reasons people go back to the same agent year after year. It makes a difference.



I would think that most priests in Italy have a working knowledge of English. Tourism there is big business.
He may not be able to offer counsel fluently, but absolution is still takes place.


This article is quite helpful:


“Individual and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by which a member of the faithful conscious of grave sin is reconciled with God and the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility excuses from confession of this type; in such a case reconciliation can be obtained by other means.”

The lack of a common language between penitent and confessor would enter into the category of a “physical or moral impossibility” which would excuse either the obligation of confession or its integrity, and allow for reconciliation to be obtained by other means.

In the present case we would be dealing with the confessor making a prudential judgment that the penitent is excused in virtue of a physical and moral impossibility and presuming the latter’s sincerity in manifesting those sins confessed in his native language.

**Thus in this particular situation the sacrament would be valid.

However, canon law does foresee the possibility of confessing by using an interpreter, although the penitent may not be obliged to do so. To wit: “Canon 990: No one is prohibited from confessing through an interpreter as long as abuses and scandals are avoided and without prejudice to the prescript of can. 983, §2.”

Canon 983, §2, requires absolute secrecy on the part of the interpreter analogous to the priest’s sacramental seal: “The interpreter, if there is one, and all others who in any way have knowledge of sins from confession are also obliged to observe secrecy.”



This is especially true for the Four Great Basilicas in Rome, especially during the height of pilgrimage season. Often, you’ll find old-style large confessionals with the languages that the priest in the confessional understands on the side of the confessional. Generally, they stick with two languages, though. The confessionals are set up so that people who know the first language enter from one side and the people who know the second language line up on the other side. The problem with the setup, though, is that the confessions are more “out in the open”, so-to-speak.


Pax Christi!

By the grace of God, I now get to say my five favorite words!!


[SIGN]When I was in Paris,[/SIGN]

I noticed that confession was offered in various languages, including, on one particular day, Vietnamese. I’m sure English-language confession will be even easier to locate.

God bless!


Thanks for the responses everyone! It’s going to be study abroad for next semester, and the center is right next to the town’s church (it was a former convent I believe). I’m assuming, just due to the number of students that go there frequently, at least one priest there understands English. I’ll be there for about 90 days if I’m not mistaken.

Either way, I’m really looking forward to it! Thanks again! :smiley:


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