Friday, March 28, 2014

Newsflash: Pope Goes to Confession Like Other Sinners

Pope hears confessions at St Peter's
Today there was a Penance Service at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Pope Francis preached about the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. "We are all sinners, but God never tires of forgiving us," the Pope said, as he has said on numerous occasions.

Many priests had taken places in the basilica to hear the individual confessions of the faithful after the service. As is usually in the plan at these events, the Pope himself took a place with other priests to hear confessions from a limited group of people who (I assume) are chosen in advance for this seemingly special opportunity.

But first, the Pope surprised everybody by doing something that was not in the program. Before taking his own place in the confessional reserved for him, Pope Francis took the initiative himself to walk over to another confessional where a priest was waiting to receive penitents. The priest was no one particularly noteworthy, nor did it appear that anyone knew in advance what was about to take place. But the Pope knelt down in front of the priest in the middle of St. Peter's and in front of the world's broadcast cameras and received the sacrament himself, making his own confession and receiving the grace of absolution.

The Pope has his own confessor, to whom he (no doubt) turns frequently to receive this sacrament in private. This is a common practice; soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II went to confession every week. Still, for a pope to kneel publicly in a church and concretely acknowledge his own sinfulness and his need for the mercy of God in this sacrament is a most unusual gesture.

Of course, it's entirely appropriate and exemplary. Perhaps it has happened before, but before the age of ubiquitous video, no one took much notice. Yet here it is, once again much to the surprise of the world.

A lot of people don't realize that popes go to confession to another priest, just like everybody else. Well, now they can see it for themselves.

Maybe some people will see this and decide that if the Pope can do it, they can do it too.

If video does not appear above, click HERE to view on YouTube.