Card. Piacenza: The confessor demonstrates Christ’s presence by his ministry
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary has written a letter to the Penitentiaries of the Roman Papal Basilicas and all Confessors for the occasion of Christmas 2021.
“The light of the Immaculate Conception, on the path leading to Holy Christmas, reflects and renews the fruitfulness of the Advent journey and reassures hearts in a time that is certainly not easy for the lives of all men,” the Cardinal said.
More so, in light of the historical context we have been going through for the past two years, the Cardinal notes, certain characteristics of confession emerge clearly, which highlight both its necessary identity and its aspects of healing which constitute its essence.
The Confessor points out Christ's presence in the world
During this Advent season, the Cardinal invites every confessor to look “with supernatural grace” and to identify with John the Baptist, repeating to the world, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
In this light, the confessor, through the faithful exercise of his ministry, points out to the world that the Lord is present as “a merciful embrace, as love and justice, as truth and grace, as consolation and tenderness.” It also becomes necessary to indicate the Lord’s presence in the world, beside men and women, as “the only saviour” in the midst of contemporary disorientation which generates a sometimes-dramatic existential loneliness.
Not a foreign, distant God
“The Christian faith does not call for a “foreign God”, or a “distant God,” the Cardinal affirms, adding that God has chosen to reveal himself, entering history, in order to save us from within history itself, while “remaining in time, through the mystery of the Church and her sacramental identity and action.”
He said that the salvific uniqueness of Christ, inclusive of truth and goodness, “present in a seminal way through the Holy Spirit in other religious or cultural traditions,” is “the condition of possibility and reality of salvation” because “if Jesus of Nazareth were not the only Saviour, there would simply be no salvation.”
Thus, the ministry of reconciliation is called to announce this salvific uniqueness “paradoxically but truly” amid the “disorienting cries”, as the “quest for truth and justice, the thirst for real freedom and liberation grows in people.” In this regard, in addition to pointing to the presence of Jesus in the world, the confessor is called to identify with that presence, which he has been made a participant of by Holy Orders, and to prolong “in and with the Church, the very mission of Jesus: to reconcile people in God, in justice and truth, which in the Father are called Mercy.”
“If the evil of the world is always in some way linked to sin, what can be done that is more useful and necessary than "freeing from evil" done, through the ministry of reconciliation?” the Cardinal asks.
The revolution of love
Amid the exercise of this precious ministry, often attacked and ignored by a world so secularized that it no longer understands its nature and indispensable requirements, Cardinal Piacenza points out that “the confessor knows well that he is participating in the only authentic revolution: that of mercy and goodness, of truth and justice, in the "revolution of Love" inaugurated by Jesus Christ who revealed to us that God himself is Love.”
This revolution of love and the personal conversion to the Love that is Christ “is the only necessary presupposition of every other possible conversion, whether ecclesial or social. It is even the presupposition of every pastoral conversion,” the cardinal added.
He, therefore, recommends to confessors, in this holy season, to renew their zeal for “listening attentively and paternally to our brothers and sisters,” aware that they must exercise this ministry of consolation which is another name for mercy. The cardinal urges them saying that their presence and availability will serve as an encouragement to the faithful who want to approach reconciliation, or who by supernatural intuition, will be moved and converted by their presence, and never by an absence.
Concluding, Cardinal Piacenza extends his warm wishes for the Christmas expression of profound gratitude "for the mystical and supernatural service to Christ and the Church, to souls and to society as a whole."