Francis: Let us restore Confession ‘to the place it deserves’ in Catholic life

Pope Francis praying Credit Lauren Cater CNA CNA 3 12 14 Lauren Cater / CNA.

Pope Francis called for the Sacrament of Confession to be elevated in the pastoral life of the Church during a Lenten penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica Friday.

"Confession is the passage from misery to mercy," Pope Francis said in his homily for the Lenten reconciliation service March 29.

"Let us restore to this sacrament the place it deserves in life and pastoral ministry!" he said.

The pope said that receiving pardon for our sins through a priest is "always a new, distinctive and unique experience."

"We pass from being alone with our miseries … to being raised up and encouraged by the Lord who grants us a new start," he said.

Following the homily, Pope Francis led a silent examination of conscience. The pope then heard the confessions of several penitents in St. Peter's Basilica.

Other priests were also available throughout the basilica to hear individual confessions.

Pope Francis recommended that people approaching the Sacrament of Reconciliation spend time looking at a crucifix after making their confession. It would be beautiful, he said, to remain with "eyes fixed on Jesus who has just set us free: no longer looking at our miseries, but rather at his mercy."

"To look at the Crucified One and say with amazement: 'That's where my sins ended up. You took them upon yourself. You didn't point your finger at me; instead, you opened your arms and forgave me once again,'" he said.

"For this is the heart of Confession: not the sins we declare, but the divine love we receive, of which we are ever in need," Francis added.

The penitential service marked the beginning of the "24 Hours for the Lord" initiative held annually on the fourth Friday and Saturday of Lent.

The pope reflected, "How many times do we feel alone, that we have lost our way in life? How many times do we no longer know how to begin again, overwhelmed by the effort to accept ourselves? We need to start over, but we don't know where to begin."

"Only by being forgiven can we set out again with fresh confidence, after having experienced the joy of being loved by the Father to the full," he said.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with seminarians and young priests taking part in an internal Vatican forum on formation for the sacrament.

Many perceive the Sacrament of Confession -- and with it a sense of sin -- to be in crisis in the contemporary world, he said, and stressed that the formation of priests is necessary to overcome the crisis and to "offer an ever more qualified service capable of really manifesting the beauty of the Divine Mercy."

"If we want to be free from evil, we have to make room for the Lord who forgives and heals," Francis said.

"Evil is strong, it has a seductive power: it attracts and fascinates. Our own efforts are not enough to detach ourselves from it: we need a greater love. Without God, we cannot overcome evil," he said. "Only his love raises us up from within, only his tender love poured out into our hearts makes us free."

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"This is the heart of Confession: not the sins we declare, but the divine love we receive, of which we are ever in need," Pope Francis said.

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