Pope Francis ready to hear confessions during the "24 Hours for the Lord" penitential service that took place last week Pope Francis ready to hear confessions during the "24 Hours for the Lord" penitential service that took place last week  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope: Work of mercy coincides with missionary vocation of Church

Pope Francis emphasizes the importance of the Sacrament of Confession, in an address to the participants in the 33rd Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

By Christopher Wells

“There is an inseparable link between the missionary vocation of the Church and the offering of mercy to all men,” Pope Francis said on Thursday.

The Holy Father was addressing participants in the annual course on the Internal Forum, organized each year by the Apostolic Penitentiary – the Vatican Dicastery “competent in all matters regarding the internal form and indulgences as expressions of divine mercy.”

Mercy and the Church's missionary activity

Pope Francis explained that mercy could almost be included among the “notes” or distinguishing characteristics of the Church: “The work of divine mercy thus coincides with the very missionary activity of the Church, with evangelization, because the face of God, as shown to us by Jesus, shines through it.”

Therefore, he said, it is necessary for priests to be available, especially during the season of Lent, to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession, also known as Reconciliation.

He emphasized that this priestly availability is shown in “certain evangelical attitudes,” beginning with welcoming everyone without prejudice, and including listening with the ear of the heart, generously absolving penitents, and accompanying the penitential journey of those who approach the Sacrament.

Rediscovering the gift of Confession

Pope Francis noted that “the Church’s evangelizing mission passes in large part through the rediscovery of the gift of Confession,” not least in view of the approaching Jubilee Year of 2025.

Turning to the pastoral plans of particular Churches, the Pope insisted on the importance of sacramental Confession and of ensuring that the faithful have access to the Sacrament. He suggested that cathedrals and other churches should always have a confessor on duty, as part of the effort to “facilitate access for the faithful to this 'encounter of love' as much as possible.'”

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23 March 2023, 11:48