From his Wednesday audience:
Speaking to the the faithful during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said the Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives, calling us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension.
He said that we receive forgiveness through priests who are the servants of this sacrament, and that they must recognise – he said – that they too are are in need of forgiveness and healing and thus they must excercise their ministry in humilty and mercy.
Below, please find Pope Francis’ remarks to English speaking pilgrims, read out in English by an assistant:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I would like to speak again on the forgiveness of sins by reflecting on the power of the keys, which is a biblical symbol of the mission Jesus entrusted to the Apostles. First and foremost, we recall that the source of the forgiveness of sins is the Holy Spirit, whom the Risen Jesus bestowed upon the Apostles. Hence, he made the Church the guardian of the keys, of this power.
The Church, however, is not the master of forgiveness, but its servant. The Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives and calls us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension. We receive forgiveness through the priest. Through his ministry, God has given us a brother to bring us forgiveness in the name of the Church. Priests, who are the servants of this sacrament, must recognize that they also are in need of forgiveness and healing, and so they must exercise their ministry in humility and mercy. Let us then remember always that God never tires of forgiving us. Let us truly value this sacrament and rejoice in the gift of pardon and healing that comes to us through the ministry of priests.
Pope Francis said he goes to confession every two weeks, knowing that God never tires of forgiving those who repent, but also knowing that having a priest say “I absolve you” reinforces belief in God’s mercy.
Using the literal Italian translation of a Spanish saying, “It’s better to turn red once than yellow a thousand times,” Pope Francis said he knows some people are embarrassed to confess their sins to a priest, but it is the best path to spiritual healing and health.
“Certainly, God forgives every repentant sinner, but the Christian is bound to Christ and Christ is united to his church,” the pope said. “God, in his sovereign mercy, forgives everyone, but he wanted those who belong to Christ and his church to receive forgiveness through the community’s ministers.”
“Priests, too, need confession, even bishops. We are all sinners. Even the pope goes to confession every two weeks because the pope, too, is a sinner,” he said. “My confessor hears what I say, offers me advice and forgives me. We all need this.”