"We are all sinners but we can ask for forgiveness”

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“Who among us can claim not to be a sinner?” Francis’ question echoed through the Basilica, where he listened to the confessions of some faithful and presided over the penitential rite promoted by the Pontifical council for the New Evangelization. Quoting the words of the Apostle John, the Pope said: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“This is what happens in our celebration and throughout this day of penance,” Francis said. “In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion … We are called to abandon sinful behaviour and fix our gaze on that, which is essential.” He went on to highlight the “difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace.” At 5 pm the Pope presided over the rite of Reconciliation in St. Peter’s Basilica, confessing and absolving a number of penitents individually. This afternoon’s celebration marked a special penitential moment promoted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, called “24 hours for the Lord”. A number of dioceses throughout the world are celebrating simultaneously, on the eve of the 4th Sunday of Lent “Dominica in Laetare”. “From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviours: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side,” the Pope said.

This afternoon Francis went over to one of the confessionals to receive absolution himself. He did so during the course of the penitential celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica, before confessing some faithful. “In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion. It is the call to change one’s life. Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one.” This is what happens during this celebration and on this day of penance.

The second factor [is]: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever and will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. Our Father never tires of loving and His eyes did not grow heavy in looking at the way home, to see if his Son who left and was lost will return. And this Father does not tire of loving even His other son, who, though he remains ever in the house with Him, nevertheless does not take part in His mercy, His compassion. God is not only the source of love, but in Jesus Christ calls us to imitate his own way of loving: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature [Love] is open, it spreads and is fruitful, [it] always generates new love.

Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will make yourselves missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative in which many dioceses all over the world are participating. To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with Him. The one who experiences the mercy of God, is driven to be the creator of mercy among the poor and the least. In these “littlest brothers and sisters” Jesus waits for us. Let us go to meet them! And we will celebrate Easter in the joy of God!”

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Giacomo Galeazzi