Holy Year brings more people to confessionals in St. Peter's Basilica

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The number of people going to
confession in St. Peter’s Basilica increased noticeably in the first months of
Year of Mercy, but not among English-speakers, who apparently are staying away
from Europe out of fear of terrorism, said the rector of the basilica’s team of

Conventual Franciscan Father Rocco Rizzo, the rector, told
the Vatican newspaper that from the opening of the Holy Year Dec. 8 and through
February, he heard about 2,000 confessions in St. Peter’s.

But, he said, “we are noticing that the majority of
penitents are Italian. I think that is due to the alarm over terrorist
attacks” following the series of attacks in Paris in November. “This
is why the English-language priests have fewer confessions this year.”

In an interview published in the March 10 edition of
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Father Rizzo said that in addition
to the 14 Conventual Franciscans assigned full time to the confessionals in St.
Peter’s Basilica, another 30 of their confreres are supplementing their work
during the Holy Year.

The Conventual Franciscans hear confessions every day from
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the winter; they stay
until 7 p.m. in the spring and summer. In addition to Italian, Spanish,
English, French, German, Portuguese and Polish, confessors can offer the
sacrament in a variety of languages, including Maltese, Chinese and Croatian.

Father Rizzo said he usually hears 20-30 confessions a
day in Italian or Spanish, but the number of penitents increases on Saturdays
and Sundays, and he will offer the sacrament to at least 50 people each day on
the weekend.

Another phenomenon that is increasing, he said, is people
coming to the confessionals who are not Catholic. “They want to confess to
see what it is about,” he said. While confessors can listen to and counsel
non-Catholics, it is not considered a sacramental confession in most cases.

Even Catholics visiting St. Peter’s Basilica as tourists or
even pilgrims may not be very familiar with the sacrament, Father Rizzo said.
Many young people will say they have not been to confession since they made
their first Communion, and it is not usual for someone to come and say it has
been 30 years since they last confessed.

“I have had people come who listened to the words of
the pope and then remembered that 30 or 40 years ago they committed a serious
sin and they now feel the need to reconcile with the Lord,” he said.
“In particular, women have come to me who have had an abortion, and they
carry with them this open wound that never heals. Even if they already have
confessed the sin, they want to re-confess it.”

For the Year of Mercy, Father Rizzo and the other priests
who hear confessions at St. Peter’s and the major basilicas of Rome have been
given special faculties to extend absolution even in cases like abortion that
normally require consultation with the local bishop or even with the Vatican.

Another Year of Mercy change, he said, is in the penance
given to those coming to confession. Increasingly the priests in the basilica
will ask someone to show their repentance not by reciting a set number of
prayers, but through a work of mercy, “like visiting someone who is sick,
doing the shopping for an older person, paying a bill for someone who is
lacking money” or helping someone get to church.

– – –

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

– – –

Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article