.- Confession and true conversion of people’s hearts is the “motor” of all reform and an authentic “force for evangelization,” Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of priests and deacons March 9.
The Pope reflected on confession in an address to 1,300 participants in the Apostolic Penitentiary’s annual course on the “internal forum,” a technical term for the area of personal conscience and judgment in the priest-penitent relationship.
In a novel speech, he connected the New Evangelization and confession, saying that the effort to spread the Gospel draws life from “the sanctity of the sons and daughters of the Church, from the daily process of individual and community conversion, conforming itself ever more profoundly to Christ.”
“Thus each confession, from which each Christian will emerge renewed, will represent a step forward for New Evangelization.”
Priests are also able to become collaborators in the New Evangelization by hearing confessions, the Pope said. They have as many possible “new beginnings” as sinners they encounter, he noted, because those who truly experience the mercy of Christ in confession will become “credible witnesses of sanctity.”
Pope Benedict also reflected on what happens spiritually during the sacrament of confession. The repentant sinner is “justified, forgiven and sanctified,” thanks to the divine mercy, which is the “only adequate response” to humankind’s need for the infinite, he said.
The forgiveness of sins has a direct impact on efforts to spread the Gospel, he explained, pointing out that only those “who allow themselves to be profoundly renewed by divine grace can internalize and therefore announce the novelty of the Gospel.”
The Pope also had some words for priests who hear confessions. He stressed the importance of spiritual and canonical preparation, and reminded them that priests must be the first to renew an awareness of themselves as sinners who need sacramental forgiveness to renew their encounter with Christ.
He finished his talk by urging his fellow priests to always make “novelty of Christ” the focus of their priestly lives so that others will see Christ in them.