VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Hear confession every time someone asks, Pope Francis said, and don’t ever put limited hours on the sacrament of reconciliation.
“Please, let there never be those signs that say, ‘Confessions: Mondays and Wednesdays from this time to that time,'” he told hundreds of confessors and other participants attending an annual course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.
“Hear confession every time someone asks you. And if you are sitting there, praying, leave the confessional open because God’s heart is open,” he said March 17.
Confession “is a pastoral priority,” and is a daily call to head to the “peripheries of evil and sin, and this is an ugly periphery,” he said.
“I’ll confess,” he told his audience, that the Apostolic Penitentiary “is the tribunal that I really like because it is a ‘tribunal of mercy,’ where one goes to get that indispensable medicine for our souls, which is divine mercy.”
A good confessor, he said, has begged God for “the gift of a wounded heart, capable of understanding others’ wounds and of healing them” with God’s mercy, he said.
Accompany men and women “with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion for their suffering, caused by the poverty of sin,” he said.
So much harm is done to the church and human souls when a confessor is not guided by prayer and the Holy Spirit in discerning what God wants to be done, he said.
“The confessor never follows his own will and doesn’t teach his own doctrine,” but is called to be God’s servant in full communion with the church.
Be ready to use confession as an opportunity to evangelize and remind people of the basic, essential truth of faith and morality. Pray to God for the gift of humility and the recognition of one’s own sins that God fully pardoned, he told them.
This kind of prayer is not only “the prime guarantee for avoiding every harsh approach that fruitlessly judges the sinner and not the sin,” he said, it also reminds confessors they are “simple, albeit necessary, administrators” of God’s free gift. “And he will certainly be pleased if we make extensive use of his mercy.”
Pope Francis also asked confessors to be very careful in discerning whether a person may be suffering from a mental disorder, “which must be verified through a healthy cooperation with” experts, or from demonic influence or possession.
Whenever a confessor recognizes the presence of evil spirits, he said, never hesitate to refer to an exorcist, who is charged with “this sensitive and necessary ministry” in each diocese.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103