In a homily at his Roman parish on Sunday, Cardinal Marc Ouellet encouraged forgiveness and reconciliation, especially through the sacrament of confession.

"The cardinals that will now participate in the conclave will have the opportunity, and will all be invited to confess their sins, so as to choose with purity of heart," the Quebec native said March 10.

Cardinal Oullet, who formerly served as head of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, noted that during the conclave the cardinal electors will be able "not only to confess their sins, but also to offer forgiveness."

Since cardinals are part of the clergy of Rome, each is given a titular parish for which they are responsible to support and care. Many cardinals said Mass at their parishes to "pray with God's people at this historical time for the Church."

Santa Maria in Traspontina is Cardinal Ouellet's titular parish, and is located on the Via della Conciliazione, which leads into Saint Peter's Square.

"After His Holiness Benedict XVI's resignation from his Petrine post, we are all trying to understand God's will for his Church," the cardinal reflected.

"Personally, knowing how Pope Benedict meditated a long time and profoundly on his decision, I cannot doubt that he did it following God's will and for the good of the Church."

Cardinal Ouellet discussed the Gospel reading of the prodigal son and its message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

"To live reconciliation during Lent, we must offer forgiveness to those who have offended us at home, in the family, at work, or in other circumstances."

He recalled the example of John Paul II, who visited his would-be assassin to offer him forgiveness, and that of Benedict XVI, who forgave Paolo Gabriele, his own butler who betrayed him.

"Let us rejoice in this good news" of reconciliation, preached the cardinal, which "we should carry to the world and share with all who don't know Jesus Christ, the treasure of our hearts, the reason for our Church's existence."

Going to Mass, he said, is a return to God's love, which we in turn "share with others" as we "offer the forgiveness that we aren't capable of giving with our own strength."

Cardinal Ouellet turned to the upcoming conclave, which will begin tomorrow.

"Let us pray together that the Holy Spirit indicates to the Church and the College of Cardinals, him who has been chosen by God, and whom they should indicate by their votes."

On March 12, at 10 a.m., the cardinals will celebrate a Mass "for the election of a Roman Pontiff," and at 5 p.m. they will have gathered in the Sistine Chapel. They will then take oaths not to divulge any thing about the proceedings and to vote their conscience before God, and the conclave will begin.

Cardinal Ouellet finished his homily by exhorting prayer for the conclave and the Pope whom it will elect.

"Having faith that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church to eternal life, let us pray that the cardinals make a good decision."

"But let us all prepare to receive the new pastor in faith as the one who God has chosen and who will carry Jesus' mystery – the only savior of the world, the joy of our hearts, our life and our hope."