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Pope leads penance service, speaks on what makes a good confessor

March 17, 2017

Pope Francis spoke to a group of priests about the characteristics of a good confessor—on the same day that he led a Penance service in the Vatican basilica.

The Holy Father began the penitential service on March 17 by making his own confession. Then he joined dozens of other priests in hearing the confessions of the faithful.

In remarks to participants in a course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Pope said that to be a good confessor, three things are necessary.

First, the priest himself must be a prayerful man, the Pope said. The confessor should recognize that he himself has been forgiven, and that realization will help him to “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that occur too often in the confessional.

Second, the confessor should be discerning. He could not “tar all with the same brush,” but recognize differences among penitents. The Pope made a point of saying that that confessors should be alert to the presence of serious psychological and/or spiritual disturbances; when necessary they wshould rely on “the human sciences” to guide them in coping with emotionally disturbed people, and they should be ready to call for the help of exorcists.

Third, the Pope reminded the priests that sacramental confession offers an opportunity for evangelization. In their brief interactions with pentitents, he said, they should do their utmost to determine what the people need most for their spiritual formation.

 
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