An iPhone app aimed at helping Catholics through confession and encouraging lapsed followers back to the faith has been sanctioned by the Catholic Church in the United States.
"Confession: A Roman Catholic app" is thought to be the first to be approved by a church authority. It walks Catholics through the sacrament and contains what the company behind the program describes as a "personalized examination of conscience for each user."
"Our desire is to invite Catholics to engage in their faith through digital technology," said Patrick Leinen of the three-man company Little iApps, based in South Bend, Indiana.
"Taking to heart Pope Benedict XVI's message from last years' World Communications Address, our goal with this project is to offer a digital application that is truly 'new media at the service of the word."
Pope Benedict XVI's World Communications Address on January 24 emphasized the importance of a Christian presence in the digital world.
The firm said the content of the app was developed with the help of Reverend Thomas Weinandy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Reverend Dan Scheidt, pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mishawaka, Indiana.
The app is not designed to replace going to confession but to help Catholics through the act, which generally involves admitting sins to a priest in a confessional booth. Catholics still must go to a priest for absolution.
Little iApps said Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of the Diocese of Fort Wayne in Indiana, officially authorized the app for Catholics to use.
"It has been approved by Bishop Kevin Rhoades," said Weinandy.
Leinen said the app has already aided one man in returning to the sacrament after 20 years.
"We hope many more will take advantage of this new confession resource," he added.
The app retails for $1.99.