03/12/2021, 17.03
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Pope says confessors should be like a brother, a father, a consoler

Francis spoke to the participants in the 31st course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary, saying that “going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to have a stain removed”. “The first expression that explains this sacrament, this mystery is abandonment to love'; the second is 'let one another be transformed by love'; and the third is 'to correspond to love'” It is “ Always Love.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis received today in the Paul VI Hall participants in the 31st course on the internal forum, organised online by the Apostolic Penitentiary, beginning on 8 March with the  participation of 870 clerics,.

Confessors ought to be “merciful”. This “does not mean being lenient”; but rather requires being like “a brother, a father, a consoler” who brings the “ray of welcoming love” in the confessional to transform the “heart of stone into the heart of flesh”.

In his address, Francis focused on “three expressions, which explain well the meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation because going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to have a stain removed. No, it's something else.”

“Let's think about what it is. The first expression that explains this sacrament, this mystery is ‘abandonment to love'; the second is 'let one another be transformed by love'; and the third is 'to correspond to love'.” It is “always Love. If there is no love in the Sacrament, it is not like Jesus would want it. If there's functionality, it is not how Jesus would want it. Love. Love from a sinner brother forgiven by a brother, a sister, both sinners. This is the fundamental relationship.”

“Faith,” said Francis, “is the encounter with Mercy, with God himself who is Mercy, God’s name is Mercy, and it is abandonment in the arms of this love, mysterious and generous, which we need so much, but to which, sometimes, we are afraid to abandon ourselves.”

“Experience teaches us that those who do not abandon themselves to God’s love end up, sooner or later, to abandon themselves to something else, ending up 'in the arms' of the worldly mindset, which ultimately brings bitterness, sadness and loneliness, and does not heal. The first step for a good confession is then precisely the act of faith, of abandonment, with which the penitent approaches Mercy.”

“While it is true that we can never fully correspond to divine Love, because of the unbridgeable difference between the Creator and [his] creatures, it is equally true that God indicates to us a possible love in which to live such an impossible correspondence: love for one's brother. Love for our brother is the place of real correspondence with God's love: by loving our brothers and sisters we show ourselves, the world and God that we truly love Him and correspond, always inadequately, to his mercy.

“The good confessor always indicates, alongside the primacy of God's love, the indispensable love for one's neighbour, as a daily gym in which to train the love for God. The current intention of not committing sin again is the sign of the will to correspond to love.”

The frequent celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation, Francis noted, “becomes, for both the penitent and the confessor, a way of sanctification, a school of faith, abandonment, change and correspondence with the Merciful Love of the Father.”

“Let us e always remember that each of us is a forgiven sinner – if one of us does not feel so, it’s better not go to confession, better not to become a confessor – a forgiven sinner, placed at the service of others, so that they too, through the sacramental meeting, may meet the Love that has fascinated and changed our lives.”

The awareness of being a forgiven sinner means that the confessor must “welcome in peace, welcome with fatherhood. Everyone knows what the expression of fatherhood is like: smile, the eyes in peace... Welcome offering calm, and then let [the sinner] speak.

“Sometimes, the confessor realises that there is a certain difficulty in moving forward with a sin, but if he understands it, he should not ask indiscreet questions. I learnt one thing from Cardinal Piacenza. He told me that when he sees that people have difficulties and realises what it is, he immediately stops them and says: 'I understand. Let's move on.' Don't give more pain, more 'torture' in [doing] this. And please, don't ask any questions.”

In his final greeting, Francis apologised for sitting. He explained that after the trip, he can feel his legs’ heaviness.

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