VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A good confessor is a
good listener, Pope Francis said.
By truly listening to the penitent during
confession, "we listen to Jesus himself, poor and humble; by listening to
the Holy Spirit, we put ourselves in attentive obedience, becoming listeners of
the Word" in order to know what God wants to be done, he said.
This is how priests can offer "the
greatest service" to all penitents, especially the young, because "we
put them in touch with Jesus himself," he said March 9.
The pope spoke to hundreds of
confessors and other participants attending an annual course on the sacrament
of reconciliation, sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court
that handles issues related to the absolution of sin.
He warned confessors to avoid the temptation
of becoming "masters" over other people's consciences, especially the
young, who are very easily influenced.
A confessor must never forget his is not the
source of mercy or grace, but he is, however, an "indispensable
instrument, but always just an instrument," the pope said.
Being a conduit between the Holy Spirit and
the penitent does not diminish this ministry, rather it leads to its
fulfillment, he said.
The more the priest "disappears and
Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, appears more clearly," the more
the priest fulfills his vocation as "unprofitable servants."
In light of the October Synod of Bishops on young
people, faith and vocational discernment, the course this year looked at the
relationship between the sacrament of reconciliation and helping others discern
The pope said young people should be able to
hear what God is saying to them, both in their own conscience and by listening
to the word. To achieve this, young people need wise accompaniment by a
confessor, he added.
With priest and penitent both prayerfully
listening to God's will, confession can become an occasion for discovering
God's plan for the individual, he said. Vocations, he added, are never about
what form they take, but are about building a life-giving and inseparable
relationship with Jesus.
The pope asked confessors to be witnesses of
mercy, "humble listeners of young people and of God's will for them;
always be respectful of the conscience and freedom of those who come to the
confessional, because God himself loves their freedom."