29/02/2016 12:00 pm
People across England and Wales will participate in a worldwide ‘Confession drive’ this weekend that has been initiated by Pope Francis, as an integral part of his Jubilee Year of Mercy celebrations.
‘24 hours for the Lord’ will run from Friday 4 to Saturday 5 March and will see teams of Catholic priests available in Cathedrals, and in some local churches in England and Wales, to dispense the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also called Confession. Similar gatherings will happen on every continent, with millions expected to visit churches for prayer and to receive the Sacrament.
In his Message for Lent 2016, Pope Francis, wrote: ‘By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand.’ He added: ‘Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him.’
Among the participating Churches in England and Wales is Christ the King Church in the centre of Plymouth. Local bishop, Rt Rev Mark O’Toole, who is also the coordinating bishop for the work of Catholic evangelisation nationally, explained: "The Sacrament of Reconciliation is such a beautiful channel of God’s healing and forgiveness. So often, in our attempts to love others, to love God, and to have a proper sense of ourselves, we miss the mark. We end up carrying the harmful effects of these faults and failings, of sin, within our own hearts. This weighs us down, affecting our happiness and all our relationships. Often we don't know what to do with these burdens. Confession is the spiritual answer. It is an amazing gift of God, a channel of Grace and mercy, through which we are made whole again, reconciled with God and with others. We are able to begin again."
Bishop O’Toole added: ‘Confession continues to be a priceless treasure in my own life, and I hope every Catholic can avail of its gift more deeply. This weekend, there is no reason to be afraid. Come. God loves you unconditionally and the priest is there simply to be a channel of Jesus' mercy. Even if you are not Catholic, come and see. You are welcome in our churches. There will be time and space for prayer, and you can approach the priest and chat with him, and receive a blessing. This weekend, do come and join us and allow God to use the priest as an instrument of grace and blessing in your life, too.’
Pope Francis will preside at a penitential service in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome this weekend. In England and Wales, every Cathedral will offer confessions, with information about timings available on their websites.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is also offering a resource area about Confession, which includes information, prayers, video testimonies, stories, downloadable posters, invitation cards and more: cbcew.org.uk/confession
For additional information about the Catholic Faith please see: catholicfaith.org.uk