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Bring the faithful back to confession, Pope urges priests

Catholic World News - March 11, 2010

Speaking on March 11, Pope Benedict XVI called upon all priests "generously to dedicate themselves to hearing sacramental confessions, and courageously to guide their flock not to conform itself to this world, but to make choices that go against the tide, avoiding deals and compromises."

In a private audience with participants in an annual course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Holy Father said that confession is not adequately appreciated today, largely because of the influence of "a hedonistic and relativist mentality which tends to remove God from the horizon of life." The prevailing attitude, he said, "does not help us to discern good from evil or to develop a correct sense of sin."

However, the Pope reminded his audience, the famous confessor and patron of priests. St. John Vianney, lived under similar circumstances, in a society with "a mentality hostile to the faith, as expressed by certain forces that even sought to prevent the exercise of the priestly ministry." Nevertheless the Curé of Ars dedicated himself unreservedly to hearing confession and helping his parishioners grow in holiness.

"From the saintly Cure of Ars we priests can learn not only a limitless trust in the sacrament of Penance which leads us to reinstate it as the focus of our pastoral concerns, but also the method of 'the dialogue of salvation' which must be part thereof," the Pontiff said. He explained that the "dialogue of salvation" is an attempt to help the penitent recognize "the certainty of being loved by God." From that beginning, he said, the confessor can help the faithful to develop a keener sense of sin and a determination to reform.

To help others along the path of sanctity, the Pope continued, priests must themselves be working for their own sanctification, and using the sacrament of reconciliation to deepen their experience of God's mercy. The Pope said that a good priest "who daily becomes living and clear presence of the Lord can arouse a sense of sin in the faithful, give them courage and stimulate their desire for forgiveness from God."

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  • Posted by: journeyman - Mar. 12, 2010 2:06 PM ET USA

    Well, yeah, fine and dandy. Now, if priests in small parishes would just quit making the Sacrament of Reconciliation available "By Appointment Only!" My recollection from the story of St. John Vianney, was that he was conveniently assigned to an obscure, rural parish.

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