Pope Francis told confessors on Friday that love was at the heart of a good confession.
He was speaking to participants in an annual course on the internal forum, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary.
This year’s course was held online due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
During the audience, which was held in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope dwelt on three expressions that explain the meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: the first, "abandoning oneself to Love"; the second, "letting oneself be transformed by Love"; and the third: "corresponding to Love".
Addressing those gathered, the Pope remarked that "going to confession is not going to the dry cleaners to get a stain removed. No. It's something else."
The first step for a good Confession, he said, “is precisely the act of faith, of abandonment, with which the penitent approaches Mercy.”
The Pope continued by saying that “every confessor, therefore, must always be capable of being amazed at the brothers who, by faith, ask for God's forgiveness…The pain for one's sins is the sign of such trusting abandonment to Love.”
“To live Confession in this way means letting oneself be transformed by Love,” he stressed.
Reflecting on this second expression, the Pope noted that the penitent who encounters “a ray of this welcoming Love, allows himself to be transformed by Love,” which changes “a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.”
He added, “It is the same in emotional life: one is changed by the encounter with a great love.”
Pope Francis told those present that a good confessor “is always called to perceive the miracle of change, to notice the work of Grace in the hearts of penitents, encouraging as much as possible the transforming action.”
Correspond to love
Turning his attention to the third expression - to correspond to Love - the Pope said, “the real will to convert becomes concrete in the correspondence to the love of God received and accepted.”
By loving our brothers and sisters, he underlined, “we show ourselves, the world, and God that we truly love Him, and we correspond, always inadequately, to His mercy.”
Pope Francis went on to say, “The good confessor always points out, alongside the primacy of love, the indispensable love of neighbour, as a daily gymnasium in which to train love for God.”
The Pope also emphasized the importance of frequent Confession as “a way of sanctification, a school of faith, of abandonment, of change and of correspondence to the Father's merciful Love.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis noted, "Each of us is a forgiven sinner, placed at the service of others, so that they too, through the sacramental encounter, may encounter that Love which has fascinated and changed our lives.”