10 phrases of Pope Francis about Sacramental Confession

In the recent book interview with Pope Francis (The name of God is mercy, Random House, a conversation with A. Tornielli), he speaks at length about the Sacrament of Confession in the context of his reflections on the mercy of God, illustrated with anecdotes from the Pontiff's very life. We present a selection of ten phrases about this sacrament, taken from the Pope's answers in that interview, while recommending that those interested read the entire work. This article is also available in Spanish and Italian.

  • I feel compelled to say to confessors: talk, listen with patience, and above all tell people that God loves them. And if the confessor cannot absolve a person, he needs to explain why, he needs to give them a blessing, even without the holy sacrament. The love of God exists even for those who are not disposed to receive it: that man, that woman, that boy, or that girl, they are all loved by God, they are sought out by God, they are in need of blessing (p. 17).
  • The apostles and all their successors –the bishops and their colleagues the priests– become instruments of the mercy of God. They act in persona Christi. This is very beautiful (p. 21).
  • Confessing to a priest is a way of putting my life into the hands and heart of someone else, someone who in that moment acts in the name of Jesus. It’s a way to be real and authentic: we face the facts by looking at another person and not in the mirror (p. 22).
  • It is true that I can talk to the Lord and ask him for forgiveness, implore him. And the Lord will forgive me immediately. But it is important that I go to confession, that I sit in front of a priest who embodies Jesus, that I kneel before Mother Church, called to dispense the mercy of Christ. There is an objectivity in this gesture of genuflection before the priest; it becomes the vehicle through which grace reaches and heals me (p. 22-23).
  • As a confessor, even when I have found myself before a locked door, I have always tried to find a crack, just a tiny opening so that I can pry open that door and grant forgiveness and mercy (p. 25-26).
  • Anyone who confess does well to feel shame for his sins: shame is a grace we ask for; it is good, positive, because it makes us humble (p. 27).
  • There is also the importance of the gesture. The very fact that someone goes to the confessional indicates as initiation of repentance, even if it is not conscious. Without that initial impulse, the person would not be there. His being there is testimony to the desire for change. Words are important, but the gesture is explicit. And the gesture itself is important (p. 35).
  • What advice would you give a penitent so that he can give a good confession? He ought to reflect on the truth of his life, of what he feels and what he thinks before God. He ought to be able to look earnestly at himself and his sin. He ought to feel like a sinner, so that he can be amazed by God (p. 43).
  • Mercy exists, but if you don’t want to receive it... If you don’t recognize yourself as a sinner, it means you don’t want to receive it, it means that you don’t feel the need for it (p. 57).
  • Many humble people confess to having fallen again. The most important thing in the life of every man and every woman is not that they should never fall along the way. The important thing is always to get back up, not to stay on the groung licking your wounds. The Lord of mercy always forgives me; he always offers me the possibility of starting over (p. 60).