By Christopher Wells

Mar 11 2024

Pope Francis presides over a penitential liturgy at Rome’s St Pius V Parish to open the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, and says confession puts us back on the path of new life that began at Baptism.

Confession, the Sacrament of God’s forgiveness, allows us to start again on the journey of new life that began with our Baptism, Pope Francis said during a penitential liturgy on Friday afternoon.

The celebration, which took place in the Roman parish of St Pius V, kicked off the annual “24 Hours for the Lord,” a Lenten initiative established by Pope Francis with the aim of keeping churches open throughout the day to offer opportunities for prayer and confession.

‘Walking in the new life’

In his reflection at Friday’s service, Pope Francis focused on the theme of this year’s event, “Walking in the new life.”

In the journey of our daily life, the Pope observed, we can often lose sight of the beauty of our new life in Christ, with harmful consequences for our relationships with God and with others.

“We remain on our way, but we need a new signpost, a change of pace, direction to help us find again the way of our Baptism, our original beauty, the sense of going forward,” he said.

“Brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis continued, “what is the way to resume the path of new life? It is the way of God’s forgiveness.” God’s forgiveness “puts us back together again… cleanses us within, returning us to the condition of our baptismal rebirth.”

But, the Pope said, while it is necessary for us to have open and contrite hearts – like the leper who cried out to Jesus, “If you will, You can make me clean” – our own efforts are not enough. “Only God knows and heals the heart; only He can deliver it from evil.”

Pope Francis emphasized that this is what Jesus wants for us, so that we might be renewed, free, happy, and able to continue along the path of our new life.

The Sacrament at the foundation of Christian existence

“Let us not grieve Him; let us not put off our encounter with His forgiveness, for only if put back on our feet by Him can we get back on the road and see the defeat of our sin, wiped out forever,” the Pope said. “Let us not forsake God’s forgiveness, the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” which is not just a devotional exercise, but “the foundation of Christian existence.”

Pope Francis called on those who administer the Sacrament of Confession to “put God’s forgiveness back at the centre of the Church.”

He invited priests to always grant forgiveness to those who ask for it, and to help those who might be afraid to confess their sins “to approach the Sacrament of healing and joy with confidence.”

Finally, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that Jesus can purify all our faults, inviting them to come to Confession with the prayer, “Jesus, I believe you can purify. I believe I need your forgiveness. Renew me, and I will walk again in new life.” – Vatican News