Pope Francis on Wednesday called on priests to be servants of the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Speaking to the the faithful during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope said the Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives, calling us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension.
He said that we receive forgiveness through priests who are the servants of this sacrament, and that they must recognise - he said - that they too are are in need of forgiveness and healing and thus they must excercise their ministry in humilty and mercy.
Below, are Pope Francis' remarks to English speaking pilgrims, read out in English by an assistant:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I would like to speak again on the forgiveness of sins by reflecting on the power of the keys, which is a biblical symbol of the mission Jesus entrusted to the Apostles. First and foremost, we recall that the source of the forgiveness of sins is the Holy Spirit, whom the Risen Jesus bestowed upon the Apostles. Hence, he made the Church the guardian of the keys, of this power.
The Church, however, is not the master of forgiveness, but its servant. The Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives and calls us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension. We receive forgiveness through the priest. Through his ministry, God has given us a brother to bring us forgiveness in the name of the Church. Priests, who are the servants of this sacrament, must recognize that they also are in need of forgiveness and healing, and so they must exercise their ministry in humility and mercy. Let us then remember always that God never tires of forgiving us. Let us truly value this sacrament and rejoice in the gift of pardon and healing that comes to us through the ministry of priests.
At the end of the General audience, Pope Francis recalled that tomorrow, November 21, is the date upon which we celebrate “Pro Orantibus Day” marking the liturgical feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Temple.
The day is dedicated to those who belong to contemplative religious orders, and the Pope said “It's a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work".
"Let us give thanks to the Lord - he added – for their testimonies of cloistered life” and he urged the faithful to lend their spiritual and material support to these brothers and sisters of ours “so that they can carry out their important mission". Tomorrow afternoon Pope Francis is scheduled to visit a Camaldolese monastery of cloistered nuns on the Aventine Hill where he will celebrate Vespers.
And the Pope went on to remind those present that November 22 is the date upon which the International Year of Family Farming will be inaugurated. The initiative promoted by the United Nations and other organizations aims to become a tool to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems based farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families.
Commending the initiative, Pope Francis said that "it highlights the countless benefits that family farming contributes to economic growth, to social solidarity, to respect for creation and to the moral fibre of the entire community”.