Absolution of the dead is seen by many as a sacrament, or part of this sacrament.. and is connected to "holy unction" in both the Orthodox and Catholic churches.
All Orthodox Churches use the Mystery of Penance, or Confession, but in Greek speaking Churches only priests who have been blessed by the Bishop as 'Spiritual Fathers' are allowed to hear confession. Children may be admitted to the sacrament of Confession as soon as they are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.
Through this sacrament sinners may receive forgiveness. They enter into confession with a priest often in an open area in the church (not in a confessional as in the Roman Catholic tradition nor separated by a grille).
Both priest and penitent stand and a cross and book of the Gospels or an icon is placed in front of the penitent with the priest standing slightly apart. This stresses that the priest is simply a witness and that forgiveness comes from God not the priest.
The priest will then hear the confession and perhaps give advice. After confession the penitent kneels before the priest, who places his stole on the penitent's head saying a prayer of absolution.
Doing PENANCE is a different issue to that of confession, though directly connected to it.
It is the Roman Catholic practice for their Popes, bishops and priests to dole out penances after hearing sins, which may consist of prayer, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, etc. We are all aware of the famous penance handed out by Catholic priests after a session in the confession box, such as "Say three Hail Marys, say ten Our Fathers, and do a novena." etc. So the question is, "Do Orthodox priests do this as well?"
I am trying to understand Orthodoxy by using sites like this link to the BBC Website about it. I am doing this because it is concise, but I feel your official website is not concise. There it says you have confession, and penances. It is well known if you confess to a Catholic Priest he might say afterwards "Say ten Hail Mary's, 20 Our Fathers and do a novena" or such like. My question is do the priests of Orthodoxy ever tell you to perform prayer, works of mercy, service of neighbour, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, etc after confession?
The confessor should give you a epitìmia (penance), and only after your accomplishing of it, you are been absolved. In practice, however, a lot of priests simply don't give you any sort of penance.
Concerning a specific case, I gave as penance to a woman who had voluntary abortion that she had to adopt a child. She killed one, she must save another one.
The confessor and the woman should "debate" concerning what she is able to do, of course. Sin is unabsolved if she strongly disagree with every kind of penance, even the simplest.
For istance, for an abortion you should not partake Communion for 40 years. For committing adultery, possibly you are obligated to live a year-in-Lent. For various "minor sins" like onanism you could sing an akathist, or specific prayers, or similar. Every priest changes the situation, for a lot of us don't apply akrivìa (hardness).
I was given a penance once for being consistently negligent in my daily prayers. The penance was to keep my prayer rule with absolutely no exceptions plus an additional 100 Jesus Prayer each day, for one month. All with the understanding that prayer is not a punishment, but rather the penance is medicine to help me. And it did help.