(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday addressed the participants of a course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, calling them to become ‘channels of mercy’.
The yearly week-long course prepares new priests and seminarians for the correct administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and traditionally concludes in an audience with the Holy Father.
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In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis reminded the priests and seminarians of the importance of “an adequate and updated preparation” for confessors, “so that all who come to confess their sins may ‘touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands, the source of true inner peace’ (Bull, Misericordiae Vultus, 17)”.
“Mercy”, the Holy Father said, “before being an attitude or human virtue, is a unfailing choice by God in favor of every human being for their eternal salvation, a choice sealed with the blood of the Son of God.”
Pope Francis went on to remind the young priests and seminarians that the door of divine mercy are always wide open. “The mercy of the Father can reach every person in many ways: through the openness of a sincere conscience; by reading the Word of God which converts hearts; through an encounter with a merciful sister or brother; in the experiences of a life lived with wounds, sins, forgiveness, and mercy.”
Of these ways which God’s mercy can reach us, the Pope said the most certain of all is Jesus himself, “who has the power on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5,24) and has entrusted this mission to the Church (John 20,21-23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is therefore the privileged place to experience the mercy of God.”
For this reason, the Holy Father said, “it is important that the confessor also be a ‘channel of joy’ and that the penitent faithful, after having received absolution, not feel the weight of his or her sins. They need to taste the work of God which freed them, live in thanksgiving, and be ready to repair the damage of their sins, going out to their brothers and sisters with an open and welcoming heart.”
Pope Francis concluded his speech by mentioning two confessors who expressed the love and mercy of God with zeal in the confessional: Sts. Leopold Mandic and Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.
St. Leopold, he said, “often told those who were suffering: ‘We have in heaven the heart of a Mother. The Virgin, our Mother, who at the foot of the Cross experienced all suffering possible for a human being, she understands our difficulties and she consoles us’. May Mary, Refuge of sinners and Mother of Mercy, always guide and sustain the important ministry of Reconciliation.”