(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday called on priests to be humble servants of the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Speaking during the weekly General Audience, the Pope also prayed for contemplative religious brothers and sisters who dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work.
Speaking to the faithful in a packed 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.
The instruments through which we receive forgiveness – he said – are priests who are called to be the servants of this sacrament. They must recognise - he added - that they too are in need of forgiveness and healing and thus they must exercise their ministry in humilty and mercy.
Speaking off the cuff, the Pope said that he too is a sinner and goes to confession every 15 days. Let us not forget – he said – that God “never tires of forgiving us, and through the ministry of a priest he offers us an embrace that regenerates us and allows us to continue in our journey”.
At the end of the audience the Pope recalled that Thursday, November 21st, which marks the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple, is the day dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders. And urging material and spiritual support for cloistered religious, he said “It's a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work".
Finally he commended the about-to-begin International Year of Family Farming saying that it highlights the countless benefits that family farming contributes to economic growth, to social solidarity, to respect for creation and to the moral fibre of the entire community.
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.
SHARED FROM RADIO VATICANA