By Susan Gately - 21 March, 2014
Pope Francis together with the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation has launched a prayer action called ’24 hours for the Lord’ to encourage people to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Priests of the diocese of Rome, lead by the Pope, will offer Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of penance on Friday 28 March and Saturday 29 March in St Peter’s Basilica and three other Roman churches.
The hope is that the action will be replicated all over the world, and that at least one church in each diocese will remain open for the full 24 hours to offer the sacrament of reconciliation to those who wish to celebrate it, preferably within the context of Eucharistic adoration.
In Rome, the initiative will begin in St Peter’s at 5pm when the Pope will lead a penitential service and hear confessions.
At 8pm, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Church of St Agnes in Piazza Navona and the Church of the Holy Stigmata near Largo Argentina will be open for confessions and adoration into the night.
The plan is for the ‘24 hours’ to continue until 4pm on Saturday 29 March, concluding at 5pm with the celebration of First Vespers of Dominica in Laetare in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, the Roman Sanctuary of Divine Mercy.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation stresses that ’24 Hours for the Lord’ is for the whole Catholic Church and one of its main aims is to create a powerful tradition.
Its plan is that the event will be celebrated on or around the Fourth Sunday in Lent in the future.
Pope Francis often stresses the importance of confession.
At an audience on 19 February, he urged people not to “lose another day” before going to the sacrament if they had been away for a long time.
“Say to yourself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus will be there, and Jesus is better than the priests – Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession,” he exhorted the faithful.
He acknowledged that many people say they can confess their sins straight to God.
“Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.”
He recognised that people feel ashamed at the idea of confessing their sins and might say, “But Father, I am embarrassed!”
“Even embarrassment is good. It’s healthy to have a bit of shame… it does us good, because it makes us more humble.”
“Don’t be afraid of confession. When someone is in line for confession he feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves [feeling] free, great, beautiful, forgiven, clean, happy.”