“Confession isn’t to torture, but to give peace,” said Pope Francis in the Roman parish of St. Mary of Graces, which he visited on March 17, 2023 to begin the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative. God lifts up those who know how to “hit bottom,” he also assured during a penitential celebration in this church with its 1940s architecture located north of the Vatican.
The Holy Father donned the purple stole used for confession, and heard the confessions of a number of the faithful, as did other priests present. He also greeted a number of the parishioners, walking about before and after the celebration.
Launched at the beginning of his pontificate and organized in Rome by the Dicastery for Evangelization, the 24 Hours for the Lord initiative, initially limited to a few Roman churches, is now held in dioceses around the world, often on the eve of the 4th Sunday of Lent.
During the liturgy, the pope addressed the parish community, warning against the “pretentious ego” of those who believe they are “right and better than others.”
He warned that those who are content to “keep up appearances,” to hide “their weaknesses in hypocrisy,” cannot “leave room for God.”
Like the Pharisee in the Gospel, “he prays to God, but in reality he celebrates himself,” and God’s place is taken by his self.
On the other hand, the head of the Catholic Church continued, the one who presents himself before God “without showing off his merits, without pretense, without presumption,” makes room for God who “waits for us in the depths,” who “is not afraid to descend into the abysses that inhabit us.”
To “approach God,” the 86-year-old Pontiff recommended saying: “Lord, I am the first of sinners, and if I have not fallen into the worst of filth it is because your mercy has taken me by the hand.”
“We are poor people,” he said, inviting the congregation to repeat several times: “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
During his meditation, the Pope also improvised some words for the confessors. “Forgive everything, always forgive, without putting too much pressure on their consciences,” he recommended, suggesting that they respond with “the silence of understanding.”