Vatican City, Mar 28, 2014 / 04:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As many dioceses the world over begin to offer special round-the clock periods of Confession, Pope Francis stressed that conversion is “a commitment that lasts a lifetime.”
“Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one,” the Pope said at a March 28 penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica which stressed the power of forgiveness through Christ.
“The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end, because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated.”
He said that many participants in the penitential service will make themselves “missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God.”
“To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with him,” the Bishop of Rome told his flock.
On March 24, he had called for churches around the world to join Rome’s parishes in “24 Hours for the Lord,” a “celebration of forgiveness” to make Confession available for a full day.
The Friday penitential service at St. Peter’s Basilica included Psalms, scripture readings, and hymns about repentance and the mercy of God.
Deacon Pat Rogers, the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s communications director, said the worldwide celebration is “the opportunity to extend God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation and through prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Deacon Rogers told CNA March 28 that San Antonio’s Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller responded to the Pope’s call.
The archbishop has opened San Antonio’s San Francesco di Paola parish for Confessions for a 24-hour period beginning Saturday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m.
“With love and respect I invite all those who seek God’s mercy to come to the sacrament of confession,” the archbishop said in a statement.
“I promise you will be received with the joy that comes when our hearts are freed from the heavy weight of sin. I also pray that these 24 hours will be a time when we can forgive those in our lives who have wounded us and make reparation with those we have hurt.”
Several U.S. dioceses already hold special Confession periods through campaigns such as “The Light is On For You.” The Boston archdiocese has set aside six days during Lent to make select parishes especially available for confession, and the Archdiocese of Denver opened nearly all its parishes for confession the evening of March 20.
In Canada, the Diocese of Saskatoon is hosting a 24-hour period of Confession and Eucharistic Adoration at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral from 1 p.m. March 28 through midnight, and continuing through the night. It will also adoration and Confession at the Cathedral of the Holy Family from 12 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Diocese of Hamilton opened its Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King for 24 hours of Confession beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday, while the Diocese of Calgary opened its St. Anthony’s parish for round-the-clock Confession at the same time.
In England, the Diocese of Middlesbrough will open three parishes for Confession from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Over a dozen parishes in the Diocese of Shrewsbury set aside special periods for Confessions.
The Archdiocese of San Jose de Costa Rica is holding a “Feast of Pardon” shortly before Easter, on April 9. Its cathedral will be open for Confessions from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., with more than 30 priests available for penitents.
In Peru, the Archdiocese of Piura is providing six parishes for "24 Hours for the Lord"; the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Trujillo is also being kept open for Confessions.
And in Argentina, the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires is holding two days of Confessions at its cathedral, on both March 28 and 29. It includes a Mass said by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Garcia, petitioning God for repentance and conversion for the entire Church of Buenos Aires.
Dn. Rogers said Catholics go to Confession because “it is the sacrament of love and mercy and reconciliation,” and a “great sign of God’s unconditional love and mercy.”
The “first step” in turning away from sin and being faithful to the Gospel is “a turning toward God,” he said. Confession helps “prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter.”
He encouraged those who need guidance about Confession to look at resources on the websites of the San Antonio archdiocese, or the U.S. bishops’ conference.
Catholics can also walk into the door of the confessional and talk to the priest about it, he noted.
“I assure you that our priests will … do all they can to gently guide you through the steps of the sacrament so that you may feel that you have celebrated it well and have received the forgiveness of God.”
Archbishop Garcia-Siller encouraged all Catholics to “celebrate this opportunity to gain the peace and reconciliation that comes through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in this sacrament of mercy and love.”