At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter. Some of it was devoted to handling the Sacrament of Penance. Do priests just pop in when penitents are scheduled to arrive? Should be more, according to the Holy Father. Let’s read a brief section, which includes six pieces of advice, which I’ve bullet-pointed here:
10. I invite priests once more to prepare carefully for the ministry of confession, which is a true priestly mission. I thank all of you from the heart for your ministry, and I ask you to be
- welcoming to all,
- witnesses of fatherly love whatever the gravity of the sin involved,
- attentive in helping penitents to reflect on the evil they have done,
- clear in presenting moral principles,
- willing to walk patiently beside the faithful on their penitential journey,
- far-sighted in discerning individual cases and generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness.
Just as Jesus chose to remain silent in order to save the woman caught in adultery from the sentence of death, so every priest in the confessional should be open-hearted, since every penitent is a reminder that he himself is a sinner, but also a minister of mercy.
A few confessors read here. Certainly many Catholic penitents, too. Which bit of advice seems most important for you? What would you add to this?