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Author Topic: Confession in the Orthodox Church  (Read 2315 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 07, 2010, 10:38:52 PM »

I've read in a few places about how in the early Church people confessed openly in church.  I'm just curious if, firstly, anyone can confirm this and secondly when/why the Eastern Orthodox Church (and if those from the OO communion know, then their communion as well) changed this to a private confession?
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2010, 07:53:44 AM »

I believe that was true. I am not sure when it changed but did so to prevent the DL from becoming a sort of Jerry Springer show
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2010, 04:11:28 PM »

I believe that was true. I am not sure when it changed but did so to prevent the DL from becoming a sort of Jerry Springer show

Really?  Now I never heard this before.  That's very interesting.

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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2010, 04:15:35 PM »

The unfortunate reality is that even in the Church people can be judgmental of others due to their sins, instead of being truly forgiving and accepting as God is to us. Apparently there were so many 'oh no you didn'ts that the Church in her wisdom decided to make it just between you and a priest.

This isn't just for the penitent's sake, but helps the others, because it makes it easier for them to not be judgmental.
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2010, 04:19:18 PM »

I don't have the book in front of me (loaned it to a friend) but "Confession the Doorway to Forgiveness" by Forest addressed this a bit.  IIRC he said the practice of open confession died out with the rise of monasticism.

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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2010, 04:24:16 PM »

I have a question: who do parish priests confess to? and how often? What if the parish is out in the boonies and there is no one really for them to confess to?
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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2010, 07:40:43 PM »

I have a question: who do parish priests confess to? and how often? What if the parish is out in the boonies and there is no one really for them to confess to?

Priests confess to other priests, (usually to one of more senior rank), or to their bishop, or, if feasible, to the abbot of a monastery if there's one in the area. Confessing to someone in a neighboring state is not unusual in my neck of the woods.
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« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2010, 07:54:15 PM »

That's what I figured. Thanks.
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« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2010, 07:57:52 PM »

I have a question: who do parish priests confess to? and how often? What if the parish is out in the boonies and there is no one really for them to confess to?

Priests/bishops confess to other priests/bishops, just like everyone else.   As often as the can, and probably not as often as many would like.  Priests spend lots of time on the phone and email with their spiritual father. 
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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2010, 07:59:47 PM »

I've read in a few places about how in the early Church people confessed openly in church.  I'm just curious if, firstly, anyone can confirm this and secondly when/why the Eastern Orthodox Church (and if those from the OO communion know, then their communion as well) changed this to a private confession?

That is true, although perhaps not a universal phenomenon, is the most well-documented practice of the early church with regard to confession.  Such a practice still exists in our day, particularly in Russia.  St. John of Krostadt was famous for reviving the practice of calling out sins publically. 
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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2010, 08:02:14 PM »

I believe that was true. I am not sure when it changed but did so to prevent the DL from becoming a sort of Jerry Springer show

And that was indeed the reason.  Gossip and scandal forced the church to choose one of two pre-existing traditions:  either public or private confession.   It opted for private in most circumstance although, as I already said, there does still exist public exomologesis. 
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« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2010, 08:12:31 PM »

I've read in a few places about how in the early Church people confessed openly in church.  I'm just curious if, firstly, anyone can confirm this and secondly when/why the Eastern Orthodox Church (and if those from the OO communion know, then their communion as well) changed this to a private confession?

That is true, although perhaps not a universal phenomenon, is the most well-documented practice of the early church with regard to confession.  Such a practice still exists in our day, particularly in Russia.  St. John of Krostadt was famous for reviving the practice of calling out sins publically. 

Yes, I remember in Dostoevsky's Demons what's-his-name considers maybe exposing all his sins publicly.
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« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2010, 10:25:37 PM »

Thanks everyone, your answers were all very good.  I had no idea that anywhere still had public confession.
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« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2010, 07:18:34 AM »

Thanks everyone, your answers were all very good.  I had no idea that anywhere still had public confession.

There is a bit of a mistake. There is no public confession in any Orthodox Church as far as I know.  Saint John of Kronstadt "got away with it" because of the sheer volume of people at his early morning Liturgies wanting to commune, his holiness, his flamboyance, and let's not forget his protective connections, through his in-laws, with the Emperor and the Oberprokurator, a layman appointed by the Emperor who basically controlled the hierarchy of the Church.

After Saint John's death in 1908 the Russian Church reiterated the prohibitions on public confession.  That is a strict policy and in place today.

Father Ambrose
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« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2010, 10:40:42 AM »

Oh, I must have misunderstand FatherHLL.  Thanks
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« Reply #15 on: August 09, 2010, 12:55:49 PM »

Oh, I must have misunderstand FatherHLL.  Thanks

No, you did not misunderstand me, but by the same token, I believe Fr. Ambrose that this is the official case.  My comment was due to several friends of mine who after living and travelling in Russian, Uzbekistan, Kergystan, etc. and their observations and peculiarities they have noticed.  I will need to get more specifics as to the particular two churches mentioned and where they are, as although I am sure they told me where, the conversation is several years removed and in the context of telling me of many other pecularities in parishes and monasteries that they had observed. 
   
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« Reply #16 on: August 09, 2010, 02:43:36 PM »

I've read in a few places about how in the early Church people confessed openly in church. 

While one can read this in various secondary sources, I think it is a bit misleading. Early Christians weren't doing a public version of what we now call "confession," i.e. they weren't lining up every Saturday or Sunday to tell the whole congregation how they got mad at their kids, lusted after their slave, and neglected their prayer rule.

Rather, it was understood that committing certain sins totally disqualified you as a Christian -- specifically apostasy, murder, or adultery (all three of which are condemned by St. Paul as sins that bar one from the Kingdom). If you committed one of these, you were cast out of the Kingdom, having made a mockery of your Baptism. Thus, you had to re-enter the Church as a penitent. And that was a very public thing. You would have to spend X amount of years standing outside of the church doors, confessing your sin, asking for forgiveness from the true faithful who were entering for the divine services, etc. There was a whole process for this type of public confession and penance.

For example, Canon 87 of Trullo, decrees: "But he who leaves the wife lawfully given him, and shall take another is guilty of adultery by the sentence of the Lord. And it has been decreed by our Fathers that they who are such must be "weepers" for a year, "hearers" for two years, "prostrators" for three years, and in the seventh year to stand with the faithful and thus be counted worthy of the Oblation if with tears they do penance."
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« Reply #17 on: August 09, 2010, 02:46:19 PM »

Thanks everyone, your answers were all very good.  I had no idea that anywhere still had public confession.

There is a bit of a mistake. There is no public confession in any Orthodox Church as far as I know.  Saint John of Kronstadt "got away with it" because of the sheer volume of people at his early morning Liturgies wanting to commune, his holiness, his flamboyance, and let's not forget his protective connections, through his in-laws, with the Emperor and the Oberprokurator, a layman appointed by the Emperor who basically controlled the hierarchy of the Church.

After Saint John's death in 1908 the Russian Church reiterated the prohibitions on public confession.  That is a strict policy and in place today.

Father Ambrose
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Thanks for the history behind Fr. John of Kronstadt.  I think we are safe to say that his case was an exception to the rule, only permitted by the Holy Synod because of the government control over the Holy Synod.

When I became friendly with Greek Orthodox at school, I was really surprised to learn how different their rules were concerning personal confession.  before, I always thought that the East Slavic Orthodox tradtion was the norm across Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #18 on: August 09, 2010, 02:49:14 PM »

I have a question: who do parish priests confess to? and how often? What if the parish is out in the boonies and there is no one really for them to confess to?

In my church we have eparchy meetings at various times throughout the year.  There is usually a Divine Liturgy with all the priests of the eparchy.  This allows the priests to seek confession from their own chosen father confessor among their brother priests.

Between eparchial meetings there is always the phone for counsel and advice from their brother priests, not to mention the local bishop.
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« Reply #19 on: August 09, 2010, 02:54:08 PM »

Thanks everyone, your answers were all very good.  I had no idea that anywhere still had public confession.

There is a bit of a mistake. There is no public confession in any Orthodox Church as far as I know.  Saint John of Kronstadt "got away with it" because of the sheer volume of people at his early morning Liturgies wanting to commune, his holiness, his flamboyance, and let's not forget his protective connections, through his in-laws, with the Emperor and the Oberprokurator, a layman appointed by the Emperor who basically controlled the hierarchy of the Church.

After Saint John's death in 1908 the Russian Church reiterated the prohibitions on public confession.  That is a strict policy and in place today.

Father Ambrose
Russian Orthodox Church

Thanks for the history behind Fr. John of Kronstadt.  I think we are safe to say that his case was an exception to the rule, only permitted by the Holy Synod because of the government control over the Holy Synod.

When I became friendly with Greek Orthodox at school, I was really surprised to learn how different their rules were concerning personal confession.  before, I always thought that the East Slavic Orthodox tradtion was the norm across Orthodoxy.

Are you all saying that St. John the Wonderworker was a pawn for the Russian government?

I'd never heard that before that I can remember.

Mary
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« Reply #20 on: August 09, 2010, 02:59:57 PM »

Please do not put words in her mouth or attribute false meanings to those words.

That is sinful.
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« Reply #21 on: August 09, 2010, 03:05:45 PM »

Please do not put words in her mouth or attribute false meanings to those words.

That is sinful.

Right!!  thank you!

Was St. John the Wonderworker a pawn for the Russian Government.  It looks as though that is what is being said but I cannot be sure. 
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« Reply #22 on: August 09, 2010, 03:29:48 PM »

Please do not put words in her mouth or attribute false meanings to those words.

That is sinful.

Right!!  thank you!

Was St. John the Wonderworker a pawn for the Russian Government.  It looks as though that is what is being said but I cannot be sure. 

I am so sorry, that my post was unclear.  No I am not saying that St. John of Kronstadt was a pawn of the Russian Government at all, but trying to comment on the information that Fr. Ambrose provided in this statement:

Quote
and let's not forget his protective connections, through his in-laws, with the Emperor and the Oberprokurator, a layman appointed by the Emperor who basically controlled the hierarchy of the Church.

I will try again & hope I can say this more clearly this time.
 The "connections" mentioned by Fr. Ambrose and the control of the Oberprokurator over the Holy Synod played an important role in the permission granted to Fr. John Kronstadt.
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« Reply #23 on: August 10, 2010, 02:05:40 AM »

I've read in a few places about how in the early Church people confessed openly in church. 

While one can read this in various secondary sources, I think it is a bit misleading. Early Christians weren't doing a public version of what we now call "confession," i.e. they weren't lining up every Saturday or Sunday to tell the whole congregation how they got mad at their kids, lusted after their slave, and neglected their prayer rule.

Rather, it was understood that committing certain sins totally disqualified you as a Christian -- specifically apostasy, murder, or adultery (all three of which are condemned by St. Paul as sins that bar one from the Kingdom). If you committed one of these, you were cast out of the Kingdom, having made a mockery of your Baptism. Thus, you had to re-enter the Church as a penitent. And that was a very public thing. You would have to spend X amount of years standing outside of the church doors, confessing your sin, asking for forgiveness from the true faithful who were entering for the divine services, etc. There was a whole process for this type of public confession and penance.

For example, Canon 87 of Trullo, decrees: "But he who leaves the wife lawfully given him, and shall take another is guilty of adultery by the sentence of the Lord. And it has been decreed by our Fathers that they who are such must be "weepers" for a year, "hearers" for two years, "prostrators" for three years, and in the seventh year to stand with the faithful and thus be counted worthy of the Oblation if with tears they do penance."

OK, so it isn't really "confession" like how you would find today, but penance instead.  Thanks.
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« Reply #24 on: August 10, 2010, 02:17:45 AM »

Thanks everyone, your answers were all very good.  I had no idea that anywhere still had public confession.

There is a bit of a mistake. There is no public confession in any Orthodox Church as far as I know.  Saint John of Kronstadt "got away with it" because of the sheer volume of people at his early morning Liturgies wanting to commune, his holiness, his flamboyance, and let's not forget his protective connections, through his in-laws, with the Emperor and the Oberprokurator, a layman appointed by the Emperor who basically controlled the hierarchy of the Church.

After Saint John's death in 1908 the Russian Church reiterated the prohibitions on public confession.  That is a strict policy and in place today.

Father Ambrose
Russian Orthodox Church

Thanks for the history behind Fr. John of Kronstadt.  I think we are safe to say that his case was an exception to the rule, only permitted by the Holy Synod because of the government control over the Holy Synod.

When I became friendly with Greek Orthodox at school, I was really surprised to learn how different their rules were concerning personal confession.  before, I always thought that the East Slavic Orthodox tradtion was the norm across Orthodoxy.

Are you all saying that St. John the Wonderworker was a pawn for the Russian government?

I'd never heard that before that I can remember.



Of course he was a pawn of the Russian government.

In those days priests were obliged by law to act as pawns and report to the government any information obtained in confession which could be traitorous to the monarchy.

Otherwise the confidentiality of confession was protected to such a great extent that a priest could be executed for breaking it.
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« Reply #25 on: August 11, 2010, 02:23:05 AM »

I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.

The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room. The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions. I have seen this happen and the priest didn't do anything about it. Five people were sitting in the very first row of pews whilst a woman was confessing in front of the iconostasis, baely two metres away. Not once did the priest ask the people to move so as to respect her privacy.

Is this normal in Orthodoxy? I really prefer the privacy of the Catholic confessional room.
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« Reply #26 on: August 11, 2010, 03:32:42 AM »

I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.

The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room. The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions. I have seen this happen and the priest didn't do anything about it. Five people were sitting in the very first row of pews whilst a woman was confessing in front of the iconostasis, baely two metres away. Not once did the priest ask the people to move so as to respect her privacy.

Is this normal in Orthodoxy? I really prefer the privacy of the Catholic confessional room.

Doesn't sound normal.
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« Reply #27 on: August 11, 2010, 04:11:54 AM »


I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.

The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room.

That's normal.

Quote


The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions.

That's not normal.  In fact it's quite wrong for a priest to allow other people to overhear confessions.


If this continues in your parish, it is quite in order for you to ask the priest to set up a time outside of confession times when you and he can meet privately for confession.

Have you spoken to other people?  Maybe several of you could explain your concerns to the priest.
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« Reply #28 on: August 11, 2010, 02:30:40 PM »


I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.

The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room.

That's normal.

Quote


The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions.

That's not normal.  In fact it's quite wrong for a priest to allow other people to overhear confessions.
One thing we do in my parish to keep people from overhearing a confession while they'e milling about in the nave or waiting for their turn in the "confessional" is to have someone read audibly, though not loudly, from the Psalms.  It's kinda like putting up a wall of sound that separates the confession from the rest of the church.  (Yes, we also follow the normal practice wherein the priest hears confessions in the front of the church even when other people are in the church.)
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« Reply #29 on: August 11, 2010, 02:40:27 PM »

Public confession of some sort was tolerated with St. John of Kronstadt because he had the gift of clairvoyance, according to one later Russian father I read, perhaps Fr. John Krestiankin.
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« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2010, 06:06:55 PM »

I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.
The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room.
That's normal.
Quote

The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions.
That's not normal.  In fact it's quite wrong for a priest to allow other people to overhear confessions.
One thing we do in my parish to keep people from overhearing a confession while they'e milling about in the nave or waiting for their turn in the "confessional" is to have someone read audibly, though not loudly, from the Psalms.  It's kinda like putting up a wall of sound that separates the confession from the rest of the church.  (Yes, we also follow the normal practice wherein the priest hears confessions in the front of the church even when other people are in the church.)

Right.  It is a reasonable solution that we use as well in our parish, and it is beneficial for others waiting to be listening to psalms, hours, interhours etc. when possible.    
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« Reply #31 on: August 18, 2010, 02:19:37 PM »


I am extremely uncomfortable going to confession at my Orthodox parish.

The priest hears confessions up the front of the church in front of the iconostasis, while other people are in the room.

That's normal.

Quote


The other people in the room can sit wherever they like, even up the front listening to peoples' confessions.

That's not normal.  In fact it's quite wrong for a priest to allow other people to overhear confessions.


If this continues in your parish, it is quite in order for you to ask the priest to set up a time outside of confession times when you and he can meet privately for confession.

Have you spoken to other people?  Maybe several of you could explain your concerns to the priest.

Frankly, I am surprised that other people can even hear the voices of the confessor.  How loud are these people speaking?  thatt's what seems unusual to me.
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« Reply #32 on: August 18, 2010, 02:21:01 PM »

Oh, I must have misunderstand FatherHLL.  Thanks

No, you did not misunderstand me, but by the same token, I believe Fr. Ambrose that this is the official case.  My comment was due to several friends of mine who after living and travelling in Russian, Uzbekistan, Kergystan, etc. and their observations and peculiarities they have noticed.  I will need to get more specifics as to the particular two churches mentioned and where they are, as although I am sure they told me where, the conversation is several years removed and in the context of telling me of many other pecularities in parishes and monasteries that they had observed. 
   

Do you have any more information for us?
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Subdeacon Michael
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« Reply #33 on: August 19, 2010, 09:03:31 AM »

Frankly, I am surprised that other people can even hear the voices of the confessor.  How loud are these people speaking?  thatt's what seems unusual to me.

I know of a priest who doesn't intentionally speak loudly during confessions but he has one of those voices that carries - wonderful when he wants to effortlessly chant in the Liturgy, not so wonderful when he is offering direction to a penitent.  In one sense it is humbling, and helps to uproot pride that may be lurking in our hearts.  After all, if we're ashamed for people to know what we do then perhaps we shouldn't be doing it in the first place.  Yet there are potential difficulties that can easily arise from this and caution seems better to me.

I have a couple of friends who speak really loudly.  Sometimes they'll be standing in front of you and practically shouting, and they don't realise.  People with a musical background tend to be better at speaking in barely above a whisper but in such a way that their words are clear to the person for whom they are intended.  Perhaps this should be taught to the clergy.

I think the most difficult confession for me was confessing to a priest who was profoundly deaf.  I think there simply comes a point, in those situations, where one simply has to resign oneself to the fact that everybody else will hear, and that their sins will beheard as well, and that we all fall and are all raised up - so just get on with it.

And yes, we read psalms at my parish during confessions as well.

M
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'There is nothing upon earth holier, higher, grander, more solemn, more life-giving than the Liturgy. The church, at this particular time, becomes an earthly heaven; those who officiate represent Christ Himself, the angels, the cherubim, seraphim and apostles.' - St John of Kronstadt
IreneOlinyk
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« Reply #34 on: August 25, 2010, 03:24:13 PM »

Did the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece ever have private confessions as the norm?

If so when did private confessions stop becoming the norm in history.
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pensateomnia
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metron ariston


« Reply #35 on: August 25, 2010, 03:42:40 PM »

Did the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece ever have private confessions as the norm?

If so when did private confessions stop becoming the norm in history.

There has not been public confession in the Greek Orthodox Church for at least 1,400 years, so I'm not sure I understand the question.
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But for I am a man not textueel I wol noght telle of textes neuer a deel. (Chaucer, The Manciple's Tale, 1.131)
IreneOlinyk
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« Reply #36 on: August 25, 2010, 03:58:06 PM »

Did the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece ever have private confessions as the norm?

If so when did private confessions stop becoming the norm in history.

There has not been public confession in the Greek Orthodox Church for at least 1,400 years, so I'm not sure I understand the question.

My Greek Orthodox friends have told me that unlike the tradtions in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church whereby one is required to go to private confession before one receives communion, the Greek Orthodox Church does not make such requirements.  In fact some of them have never been to private confession but go to communion regularly.  Further than it is the same in Greece as here in Canada.
Was private confession ever required in the Greek Orthodox Church?
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john_morcos
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« Reply #37 on: August 25, 2010, 04:00:14 PM »

I have a question: who do parish priests confess to? and how often? What if the parish is out in the boonies and there is no one really for them to confess to?

Priests confess to other priests, (usually to one of more senior rank), or to their bishop, or, if feasible, to the abbot of a monastery if there's one in the area. Confessing to someone in a neighboring state is not unusual in my neck of the woods.

And even Patriarchs do confess to another priest.
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Father H
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« Reply #38 on: August 29, 2010, 05:47:51 PM »

Do you have any more information for us?

Ok, I have confirmed at least this, that in Tashkent Uzbekistan has the following practice:

All cry their sins aloud, and then come up for absolution in a line.   At that time, a person may converse with the priest about specifics of correction of sins when needed. 
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