Pope Francis has often emphasized the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the life of the Church. In 2014, he instituted a Lenten tradition of "24 Hours for the Lord," during which Catholics can find extra opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and for going to confession.
The day-long period usually begins with a penance service in St. Peter's Basilica. At the 2014 liturgy, Pope Francis surprised a priest by approaching him for the Sacrament of Reconciliation himself before hearing the confessions of others.
The "24 Hours for the Lord" initiative began in Rome and is organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which encourages bishops to organize the event in their own dioceses.
During a general audience in February 2014, Pope Francis urged those present to ask themselves "when was the last time I went to confession?"
"And if it has been a long time, don't lose another day!" he said. "Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus [will be] there, and Jesus is better than the priests -- Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession."
In the same catechesis, he noted that sometimes people felt ashamed at the idea of confessing their sins, but he explained that "even embarrassment is good. It's healthy to have a bit of shame... it does us good, because it makes us more humble."
"Don't be afraid of confession," he stressed. "When someone is in line for confession he feels all these things -- even shame -- but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves [feeling] free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy."