Pope: the confessor is an "instrument" of God who must be careful not to put up an obstacle to his mercy
An “adequate and updated preparation” is need. In case absolution is not possible, one should “first of all look if there is a way. Many times, there is one. Secondly, one must not be tied only to the spoken word, but rather to the language of deeds. Thirdly, if one cannot give absolution, one must speak like a father: ‘Listen, I cannot do this for you, but I can assure you that God loves you, that God is waiting for you!"
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis on Friday met the participants of a course on the “Internal forum” organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary. In his address, he said that confessors must remember that they are the "instruments" of God’s mercy, and must be "careful not to put up an obstacle to the gift of salvation”.
The Holy Father said that if one cannot give absolution, one must "first of all look if there is a way. Many times, there is one. Secondly, one must not to be tied only to the spoken word, but rather to the language of deeds. Thirdly, if one cannot give absolution, one must speak like a father: ‘Listen, I cannot do this for you, but I can assure you that God loves you, that God is waiting for you!"
Francis used today’s meeting to reiterate his instructions to the priests who hear confession. He reminded them of what Jesus said about the joy in heaven when a sinner converts, urging them to ensure that confessions become a ‘channel of joy’ so that the faithful "no longer feel burdened by guilt, but can instead enjoy the deed God performed to free them, allowing them to live in thanksgiving, ready to undo the harm done and reach out to brothers and sisters with a good and friendly heart."
Celebrating the sacrament "that seems to find in the word 'mercy" its synthesis,” Francis called for an “adequate and updated preparation so that those who approach may ‘touch the greatness of mercy, true source of inner peace'." Indeed, "before it is an attitude or a human virtue, mercy is God’s ultimate choice in favour of every human being with respect to his or her eternal salvation, a choice sealed with the blood of the Son of God.”
Such “divine mercy can freely reach all those who invoke it. The possibility of forgiveness is really open to everyone; in fact, it is wide open, like the widest 'holy doors’ because it coincides with the Father's own heart, of he who loves and waits for all his children, particularly those who erred the most and are faraway. God’s mercy can reach every person in many ways: from the openness of a sincere conscience, the reading of the Word of God that converts the heart, the meeting with a merciful sister or brother, or the experience of a life that speaks of wounds, sin, forgiveness and mercy."
"Nevertheless, mercy has a ‘sure path’ along which we can go from possibility to reality, from hope to certainty. That path is Jesus, who ‘has authority on earth to forgive sins’ (Lk 5:24) and passed on this mission to the Church (cf Jn 20:21-23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is therefore the privileged place to experience God’s mercy and celebrate the Feast of the encounter with the Father."
"Lest we forget, as confessors, when we go to the confessional to welcome our brothers and sisters, we must always remember that for them we are instruments of God’s mercy. Therefore, let's be careful not to put up an obstacle to this gift of salvation! A confessor is himself a sinner, a man who always needs forgiveness; he is the first who cannot do without God’s mercy, who 'chose' and ‘appointed’ him (cf. Jn 15:16) for this great task.”
“He must always have an attitude of humble and generous faith, with the sole desire that every believer experience the Father’s love. We have no shortage of such holy brothers; remember Leopold Mandic and Pio of Pietrelcina, whose remains we venerated a month ago in the Vatican."
"Every repentant faithful, after the priest’s absolution, is assured, by faith, that his or her sins no longer exist, that they were erased by the divine mercy. Each absolution is, in a certain way, a jubilee of the heart, which cheers up not only the faithful and the Church, but above all God himself. As Jesus said, ‘there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance (Lk 15:7).”
“It is therefore important that the confessor also be a' channel for joy' and for the faithful, who, after receiving forgiveness, no longer feel burdened by guilt, but can instead enjoy the deed God performed to them, allowing them to live in thanksgiving, ready to undo the harm done and reach out to brothers and sisters with a good and friendly heart."
"In our time, marked by individualism, so many wounds and the temptation to turn inward, seeing and supporting people who approach mercy is a true gift. This entails, for all of us, an even greater obligation of evangelical coherence and paternal benevolence; we are custodians, never masters, of either flock or grace. Let us put back in the centre – and not just in this Jubilee Year – the sacrament of Reconciliation, the true space of the Spirit in which everyone, confessors and penitents, can experience the only definitive and faithful love, that of God for each one of his children, a love that never disappoints."
Speaking without notes, the pope asked himself, "What do I do if I am in trouble and cannot give absolution? What should be done? We must first of all look if there is a way. Many times, there is one. Secondly, we must not be tied only to the spoken word, but rather to the language of deeds. Thirdly, we if we cannot give absolution, we must speak like a father: ‘Listen, I cannot do this for you, but I can assure you that God loves you, that God is waiting for you! Let us pray together to the Virgin Mary, that she may watch over you; come, come back, because I shall wait for you as God is waiting for you.’ Then give the blessing. Thus, this person can leave the confessional,” thinking “'I found a father and he did not beat me' . . . Yet, how many times have you heard people saying, 'I never confess because I went once and I was yelled at’."
"Even in an extreme case in which I cannot perform” absolution, should they “not feel the warmth of a father? Bless them. If they come back, let them come back . . . You can even pray a little bit with them. Always keep in mind this: the father is there. This too is a celebration. God knows how to forgive things better than we do, right? At least in our case, let us be the Father’s icon."