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Pope Francis: three characteristics of a good confessor

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. In his words to the group, the Pope spoke about the formation of good confessors, focusing on three characteristics which should guide their work.

Firstly, Pope Francis said, a good confessor is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a person dedicated to prayer. A Ministry of Reconciliation “bound up in prayer”, he said, is a credible reflection of God’s mercy and will “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that are sometimes associated with the Sacrament. Prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin, he said.

Also Read: How and why to go to Confession? Find here

Pope Francis told participants that they cannot forgive through the Sacrament without the awareness of first having been forgiven themselves. He urged them to pray for humility and “the gift of a wounded heart” so that they are able to understand other people’s wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy.

Secondly, the Pope said the good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church through a lack of discernment, he added. Discernment, he insisted, enables a confessor to distinguish and not “tar all with the same brush” despite the many different and delicate situations people bring to the confessional.

Pope Francis said that if a confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances, confirmed through a ”healthy collaboration” with specialists in human sciences, he must not hesitate to refer the issue to an exorcist, chosen with “great care and great prudence”.

Finally, Pope Francis concluded, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization and thus of formation. In the brief dialogue that is woven with the penitent, he said the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister. He stressed that confession is a real pastoral priority and he urged them never to limit the availability of the Sacrament to anyone who comes asking for it.

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