Cardinal Joachim Meisner spoke to a large group of priests last month about the important role of the sacrament of Confession for their ministry. Sin, he said, is the greatest obstacle in our relationship with God.
In its most recent edition, the Italian Catholic monthly 30 Giorni (30 Days) printed the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne's address on the importance of Confession. He originally gave the talk to thousands of priests during the international convention held in Rome for the close of the Year for Priests this past June.
Cardinal Meisner pointed out in the talk that the neglect for the sacrament of Reconciliation is "one of the most tragic 'failures' that the Church has experienced in the second half of the 20th century," which, he said, translates into a "tremendous" spiritual loss.
He explained that when lay Catholics ask him what they can do to help their priests, he tells them "Go to them and confess!" because a priest that doesn't hear confessions "becomes a social worker of religious character."
By neglecting his duties as a confessor, the priest misses out on "the experience with the greatest pastoral result: collaborating," he explained. Through Confession and thanks also to the help of the priest, the sinner, he said, "leaves the confessional newly sanctified.
"In the confessional the priest can penetrate into the hearts of many people and from this they get impulse, encouragement and inspiration for the very succession of Christ.
Cardinal Meisner told the group of priests at the convention that sin is "the greatest obstacle" to perceiving God through them and impedes His presence in their existence "and for this there is nothing more necessary than conversion ... "
"It's about, to say it briefly, the sacrament of Penance."
The German cardinal added, "A priest that does not put himself frequently on one side or the other of the confessional screen experiences permanent damage to his soul and to his mission."
In closing, Cardinal Meisner stated that Confession contributes to the priestly identity and grants the priest "access to a life where he can think of nothing else other than God."