Pope Francis has asked more than 1,000 priests to be Missionaries of Mercy and told 700 plus of them on Tuesday that when listening to other people’s sins, they must respect and encourage those who, “with shame,” go to confession.
“Let’s not forget: it’s not sin in front of us, but the repentant sinner,” Pope Francis told 726 missionaries of mercy who were in Rome to participate in a two-day event. “A person who has the desire to be heard and forgiven, [and] who promises to stay close to the house of the Father.”
The Pope spoke to the priests in the Sala Regia, within the Apostolic Palace and right next to the famed Sistine Chapel.
The Missionaries of Mercy, one of the features of the Pope’s Holy Year of Mercy, volunteered or were nominated by their bishops or religious superiors. Throughout the year, they’ll be available for bishops to summon to their dioceses to preach about mercy and hear confessions.
The priests will have the authority to forgive sins reserved to the Vatican, such as an attempt against the life of the pope or a priest who violates the seal of the confessional.
“We can’t run the risk of a penitent not perceiving the maternal love of the Church that welcomes and loves him,” the Pope said.
Above all, Pope Francis asked the missionaries to remember that when they enter the confessional, “it’s Christ who welcomes, it’s Christ who forgives, it’s Christ who gives peace. We’re his ministers, and we first need to be forgiven by him.”
Before leaving Rome, the priests will concelebrate the Ash Wednesday Mass with the Pope, marking the beginning of the Lenten season.
In all, 1,142 priests have been selected to be Missionaries of Mercy. They come from every continent, including countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Egypt, where Christians face persecution.
Photo: Pope Francis posed for a selfie during a meeting with priests designated as “missionaries of mercy” at the Vatican on Tuesday (CNS)