Traditionally, popes have heard confessions of some faithful in the basilica on Good Friday morning. But Francis had the service three weeks early.
And he surprised his master of ceremonies by going to confession in public himself. After receiving absolution, Pope Francis went to another confessional and spent about 40 minutes hearing confessions.
Pope Francis on penance: Conversion is not just for Lent [2:37]
In his homily, the Pope said following God’s call to conversion is not supposed to happen only during Lent, but is a lifetime commitment. When hearts are renewed and “created in God’s way” good behavior follows, he said. For example,
“always speaking the truth and steering clear of all lies; no stealing, but rather, sharing what one has with others, especially with those in need; not giving in to anger, rancor and revenge, but being meek, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not taking part in malicious gossip that ruins the good name of people, but looking mainly for the good side in everyone.”
God’s love cannot be held inside, he said.
“It’s open by its very nature; it spreads and is fruitful. It always generates new love.”
In that missionary spirit, the penitential liturgy opened an initiative called “24 Hours for the Lord” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.
The council asked dioceses around the world to have at least one parish open all day and night on March 28, so that anyone could go to Confession and take part in Eucharistic Adoration. It’s part of the Pope’s focus on celebrating God’s mercy and power of forgiveness.
Pope Francis has urged priests not to be too lax or too harsh during Confession and to make sure people always know when the sacrament of reconciliation is available.
“Let’s not forget that the faithful often struggle to take part in the sacrament, both for practical reasons and because of the natural difficulty in confessing one’s own sins to another person. For that reason we have to work really hard on who we are, on our humanity, so as to never be an obstacle, but to always help people be drawn to mercy and forgiveness.”
He also spoke about Confession during a public audience in February saying,
“Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, (will be) there, and Jesus is better than the priests – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession.”
He also said,
“The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When I go to confession, it’s for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell.”