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Pope: Penitent Sinners Need Merciful Confessors

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Priests must give hope to men and women seeking forgiveness, encouraging them in their struggle away from the slippery slope of sin, Pope Francis said.

Being merciful in the confessional helps penitents return to God without fear, even if they repeatedly stumble or slip on a path that “is filled with stones and banana peels,” the pope told 550 priests he designated as “missionaries of mercy.”

“In short, mercy restores dignity,” the pope said April 10. “The penitent does not indulge in self-pity for the sin committed, and the priest does not blame him for the evil from which he repented. Rather, he encourages him to look to the future with new eyes, leading him to ‘springs of water.’”

The missionaries of mercy, religious-order and diocesan priests from around the world, were among more than 1,000 who received a special papal mandate to preach and teach about God’s mercy during the 2015-16 Holy Year of Mercy.

To be effective heralds of mercy, the pope continued, priests must recognize the merciful love they first received from God.

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