VATICAN CITY — In his weekly general audience, Pope Francis spoke about the power Jesus gave the apostles to forgive sins in his name, stating that priests should exercise this ministry with “humility.”
“The Church is the depository of this power. It is not an owner; it is the servant of the ministry of reconciliation on behalf of men,” the Pope explained during his Nov. 20 general audience. He also greeted the thousands of pilgrims present, which included groups from Spain, Venezuela, Guatemala, Argentina, Mexico, England, Wales, Korea and the United States.
Continuing his reflections on the Creed, the Holy Father addressed the thousands of pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square saying, “Today I would like to speak again on the forgiveness of sins by reflecting on the ‘power of the keys.’”
This authority, he said, “is a biblical symbol of the mission Jesus entrusted to the apostles.”
“First and foremost, the protagonist of the forgiveness of sins is the Holy Spirit,” he said, pointing to how Jesus bestowed the Spirit upon the apostles after his resurrection.
“Hence, he made the Church the guardian of the keys, of this power, he added.
Pope Francis went on to explain that the “risen Jesus, before communicating his Spirit, showed the signs of his passion,” reflecting that “his wounds represent the price of our salvation, indicating that the Holy Spirit grants the forgiveness of God by ‘passing through’ the wounds of his hands and his side.”
Because of this, the Holy Father said, “the Church accompanies us on our journey of conversion for the whole of our lives and calls us to experience reconciliation in its communal and ecclesial dimension.” He said the Church is always glad to offer “this Divine gift.”
Turning to the importance of confessing one’s sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession, the Pope said that “God wanted us to receive his forgiveness through the ministers of the community.”
Through this priestly ministry, noted the Pope, “God has given us a brother to bring us forgiveness in the name of the Church.”
“Priests,” he said, who are “the servants of this sacrament,” also have “the necessity of mercy,” and they “must recognize that they also are in need of forgiveness and healing,” because they are “an instrument of reconciliation” for their brothers.
Because of this, Pope Francis said “they must exercise their ministry in humility and mercy.”
“If he is not in this condition,” the Pope warned, “it is better that he does not administer this sacrament. He must have peace in his heart in order to sow hope and humility to receive the sinner who approaches him like Jesus himself.”
Pope Francis concluded his address by encouraging those present to “remember always that God never tires of forgiving us. Let us truly value this sacrament and rejoice in the gift of pardon and healing that comes to us through the ministry of priests.”
He said, “Through the ministry of the priest, [God] gives us an embrace that regenerates us and permits us to rise again and take again our journey.”