By Junno Arocho Esteves
CITY (CNS) — Confessors have two choices: to be like Jesus who readily forgave
sins or like the
devil who always condemns,
Pope Francis said.
can either do the work of Jesus, who forgives, by giving your lives in prayer (and) through many hours
seated there or you do the work of the devil who condemns and accuses,”
the pope said during Mass Feb. 9 with Capuchin friars from around the world.
The Mass at the Altar of the Chair in
St. Peter’s Basilica was held in conjunction with the veneration of the relics
of two Capuchins, Sts. Padre Pio
and Leopold Mandic; Pope Francis requested their relics be brought to the
Vatican for the Year of Mercy.
Both saints, the pope told the friars, spent long hours in the
confessional as ministers of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Recalling the day’s Gospel passage, in which the
Pharisees and scribes condemn Jesus and his disciples for not observing
traditions, the pope reminded the Capuchins that confessors are called to be
“great forgivers in the confessional.”
“The confessional is for forgiving,”
he said. “And if you cannot give someone absolution, please, do not ‘beat’ him.”
The pope repeated the story of a former
Capuchin provincial who was sent to a shrine as a confessor after his
retirement. The friar, who usually had a long line of people waiting for him,
“always found a way to forgive or at least leave that person’s soul in
peace with a hug.”
However, the priest expressed concern that he was
forgiving too much. “And what do you do when you feel that way?” the
pope recalled asking him.
“‘I go to the chapel in front of the
tabernacle, and I tell the Lord: ‘I’m sorry Lord, forgive me, I think I forgave
too much today. But Lord, it was you who gave me a bad example,'” the
Forgiveness, the pope explained, is a
“caress from God” and confessors who do not forgive become like the
scribes in the Gospel “who are always there to accuse,” much like
“the great accuser in the Bible: the devil.”
Pope Francis also called on the Capuchins to be
humble and sincere if they are not up to the task of forgiving with mercy.
“If you do not feel it, be humble and say:
‘No, no, I’ll celebrate Mass, I’ll clean the floor, I’ll do everything except
confess because I do not know how to do it well,” the pope said.
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