Detroit Mass highlights need to recognize sin in order to enjoy mercy

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Seeking God's forgiveness for generations of failures in the Church, the Archdiocese of Detroit held a Mass of Pardon asking God for grace and mercy.

"Repent and believe in the Good News, this is an inseparable prayer," Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in his homily for the Oct. 7 Mass.

He said the Mass is about "transforming those faults in our sins, the wounds we bear that bear death, and transforming those wounds into new sources of life."

"That's what pardon is in the Kingdom of God. It's not about forgetting, it's about transformation. Transforming our lives though Jesus Christ, now and forever," the archbishop said, according to the Michigan Catholic.

Auxiliary Bishops Michael Byrnes, Arturo Cepeda and Donald Hanchon concelebrated the Mass with the archbishop at Detroit's Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

At the start of Mass, the archbishop and bishops processed in and laid prostate before the altar as a long litany of sins and failures was recited between sung portions of the Kyrie, "Lord have mercy."

The litany asked forgiveness for sins committed throughout the years, by clergy and faithful. They asked forgiveness, as a Church, for "ignoring the Word of God… and hiding behind policies and procedures," for failures to protect children from sex abuse and for failing "to take to heart the Lord's condemnation of those who scandalize 'the little ones'."

They sought pardon for "turning a deaf ear to the cries of the poor," abandoning the widow and orphan, and institutionalized racism. Their other objects of penitence included "cowardice in confronting the culture of death," "turning a blind eye to corruption," and even for ill-prepared homilies.

They sought pardon for "tearing each other to pieces by our choosing bitterness, vanity, self-glory and worldly ways" and for "not picking up our crosses and following Jesus, for avoiding the purifying pains that come with a life of faith, hope and love."

Archbishop Vigneron's homily further reflected on penitence as an inherent part of Christian life.

"We're repenting so that we can receive the Good News and share the Good News," the archbishop said. "To be a band of joyful missionary disciples, we must first be evangelized. And to be evangelized, we must first repent."

The Archdiocese of Detroit said the event was "an act of repentance before God." It was an opportunity for the archbishop to represent the archdiocese before God and repent of "all the sins that have been committed, and in many cases were part of the culture of the Archdiocese, over many decades."

In a September 2016 letter, Archbishop Vigneron explained the Mass of Pardon. He would go "personally before God to repent on behalf of the Archdiocese for the sins committed over the generations by our bishops, our priests, our lay ministers, our institutions, and all the faithful - sins which, all too often, have become embedded in our church-culture."

He described the Mass of Pardon as a chance for "repentance and humility for every member of the archdiocese," linking it to the Catholic Church's Year of Mercy

The archbishop compared the Mass of Pardon to the Sacrament of Confession. The Mass is "a vital step in our imploring the Holy Spirit to grant us all the graces of a New Pentecost in our Archdiocese."

"In God's unfathomable wisdom, He gave us, sinners though we are, the responsibility of spreading the Good News, knowing that in our humanity we would err – but promising us deliverance from sin and death with our heartfelt repentance," the Archbishop said.

The archbishop invited the faithful to join in prayers for forgiveness by saying a rosary, offering a day of fasting, visiting the Door of Mercy at the cathedral, or going to confession.

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The Mass comes ahead of the upcoming archdiocesan synod, set for Nov. 18-20. It follows the example of St. John Paul II, who celebrated a similar Mass in March 2000.

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