· Vatican City ·

The Holy Father to priests and consecrated men and women

Confession must not be torture forgive everything

  Confession must not be torture forgive everything  ING-021
24 May 2024

On Saturday morning, 18 May, Pope Francis’ travelled by helicopter to the northern Italian city of Verona for a one-day pastoral visit. Following his arrival he travelled by car to the Basilica of Saint Zeno for an encounter with deacons, priests, and consecrated men and women.

After his greeting, the Holy Father spoke about the beauty of the cathedral, in particular its ceiling. Shaped like a ship’s hull, he said it made him think of the mystery of the Church, the Lord’s boat sailing in the sea of history to bring the Gospel to all. Pope Francis drew inspiration from this evangelical image to reflect on two aspects: the call and mission. He highlighted the importance of having welcomed the call, the very core of consecrated life, when the Lord’s gaze fell upon them and they were chosen for this ministry, despite being sinners, along with everyone else. It was an unexpected gift of grace from the Lord. “Let us never lose the wonder of the call”, he urged, adding that it is “nourished by the memory of the gift received by grace”. If this memory is lost, there is a serious risk of becoming involved in things that are more of the world than of the Kingdom. “This is the first foundation of our consecration and ministry: to accept the call we have received, to welcome the gift with which God has surprised us”, he noted.

Pope Francis then turned to the second aspect, the mission, which he said, requires courage. When the “experience of remembering the first call is firmly rooted in us, we can be courageous in the mission to be accomplished”. Apostolic courage, he said is a gift. Indeed, he added, “if there is one aspect that is characteristic of Veronese priests and religious, it is precisely that of being enterprising, creative, capable of embodying the prophecy of the Gospel”. He highlighted Verona’s historical legacy of faith-driven social contributions and the “witnesses of the faith who were able to unite the proclamation of the Word with the generous and compassionate service to those in need”.

Towards the end of the encounter, Pope Francis addressed a topic that is very dear to him, the importance of forgiveness. He invited priests to remember that they are instruments of forgiveness who “must bring the caress of God’s mercy” to the faithful in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Please, forgive everything. Everything. And forgive without causing suffering, forgive opening your heart to hope”, he urged them, Indeed, he added, the Church needs forgiveness, and God’s mercy must reach everyone, especially “those who thirst for hope”.