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The Holy Father has been focusing on Pentecost and connects the themes to sacramental confession.
BY REGISTER STAFF
Pentecost Sunday 2008 is a kind of centerpiece for Pope
Benedict XVI in a year of extraordinary papal events.
The Holy Father has been focusing on the Holy Spirit and images
of Pentecost in his remarks regarding World Youth Day 2008, to be held in
Sydney this summer. When he celebrated Mass at Nationals Stadium on April 17,
he used the readings of Pentecost.
The head of the youth section of the Vatican department for
the laity, Father Francis Kohn, said that Pope Benedict expects great things
from his events in 2008.
“The Pope speaks of this being a new Pentecost, a new
outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” said the priest.
The Holy Father often connects the themes of an outpouring
of the Holy Spirit and sacramental confession.
Cardinal George Pell revealed that in response to the
Vatican, the Sydney event will have plenty of confession offered: “A whole bevy
of priests will strategically be placed around the city to administer this
sacrament, and pilgrims can be certain of it being made available at each
In Rome, Benedict met with young people in March who were
preparing for World Youth Day. He heard the confessions of some of the young
people and exhorted them all to prepare for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“At the roots of being Christian,” he told them, “is an
encounter with an event, with a Person. This opens a new horizon and, with it,
a decisive sense of direction.” In order “to favor this encounter, you are
preparing to open your hearts to God, confessing your sins and — by the action
of the Holy Spirit and through the ministry of the Church — receiving
forgiveness and peace.”
“Thus,” he added, “we make room in ourselves for the
presence of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity which is
the ‘soul’ and the ‘vital breath’ of Christian life. The Spirit helps us to
grow ‘in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful
and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice.’”
On this subject, the Holy Father recalled one of his own
Pentecost meditations when he was archbishop of Munich and Freising, inspired
by the film Seelenwanderung, in which one of the characters sells his soul in
exchange for worldly success: “From the moment he freed himself of his soul, he
no longer had any scruples or humanity, providing striking evidence of how the
facade of success often hides an empty life.
“A human being cannot throw away his own soul, because it is
the soul that makes him human,” he said. “Yet he does have the frightening
possibility of being inhuman, of remaining a person but at the same time
selling or losing his own humanity.”
Likewise, Benedict continued, the Holy Spirit “cannot be
seen with the eyes. Whether it enters into a person or not, it cannot be seen
or demonstrated; but it changes and renews all the perspectives of human life.
The Holy Spirit does not change the exterior situations of life, but the
“Let us then,” he said, “prepare ourselves, with a sincere
examination of conscience, to present ourselves before the people to whom
Christ entrusted the ministry of reconciliation,” he said. “Thus will we
experience true joy. ... Be bearers of this joy, which comes from welcoming the
gifts of the Holy Spirit, and witness its fruits in your own lives.
“Always remember that you are ‘temples of the Spirit.’ Allow
him to dwell in you and humbly obey his commands, in order to make your own
contribution to the building of the Church and to discern the type of vocation
to which the Lord calls you,” he said. “Be generous, allow yourselves to be
helped by using the sacrament of confession and by the practice of spiritual
When Pope Benedict said an early Mass of the Holy Spirit at
Nationals Park on April 17 he also stressed confession.
“We have heard from many people — not just Catholics — about
how they felt transformed spiritually by his presence and quiet message of hope
and faith, something we need to hear more of in our world,” Susan Gibbs,
director of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington told Catholic News
Service. “There have been a number of stories of people returning to confession
after years away, particularly at the Mass at Nationals Park.”
In his homily there, he made the connection between the Holy
Spirit and confession explicit:
“In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord bestows the gift of the
Holy Spirit upon the apostles and grants them the authority to forgive sins,”
the Pope said. “Let us trust in the Spirit’s power to inspire conversion, to
heal every wound, to overcome every division, and to inspire new life and
freedom. How much we need these gifts! And how close at hand they are,
particularly in the sacrament of penance!”
He added: “The liberating power of this sacrament, in which
our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful word of pardon and peace,
needs to be rediscovered and reappropriated by every Catholic. To a great
extent, the renewal of the Church in America depends on the renewal of the
practice of penance and the growth in holiness that that sacrament both
inspires and accomplishes.”
The Holy Father had begun his homily by saying: “I have come
to America … to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon
the Church in this country.”
On May 4 he continued his emphasis on the Holy Spirit by
sending a letter through his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to
the members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (Rinnovamento nello Spirito),
which gathered near Rimini, Italy, for their 31st meeting.
The papal letter stated that “His Holiness praises and
encourages the commitment with which the Charismatic Renewal makes its own and
carries forward the effort to promote communion and collaboration among the
diverse realities that the same Spirit has brought about in the Church.”
The letter emphasized that the Holy Father “always follows
the journey of the ecclesial movements with special pastoral solicitude” and
that he exhorts the members of the Charismatic Renewal always to “unite with
prayer their effective attention to the world’s needs and the good of men.”
The meeting celebrated the 10th anniversary of Pope John
Paul II’s 1998 meeting with the ecclesial movements and communities.
In this context, talks were given by representatives of the
Community of Sant’Egidio, the Focolare movement, and Communion and Liberation
on the theme “The Church Counts on Each One of You.”
CNS and Zenit contributed
to this article.