Pope Francis heard confessions at a parish in Rome on Friday and encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom.’”
In the presence of eucharistic adoration, the pope presided over a Lenten penitential service on March 17 to open “24 Hours for the Lord,” an initiative in which certain Catholic churches around the world will remain open 24 consecutive hours with round-the-clock confession and adoration.
“Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego. … He can bridge the distance whenever, with honesty and sincerity, we bring our weaknesses before him,” Pope Francis said.
“He holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize we are ‘hitting rock bottom’ and we turn back to him with a sincere heart. That is how God is. He is waiting for us, deep down, for in Jesus he chose to ‘descend to the depths.’”
Pope Francis encouraged people to remember that God “holds out his hand and lifts us up whenever we realize that we are ‘hitting rock bottom’” at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
The pope underlined that God waits for us, especially in the sacrament of penance, where he said the Lord touches our wounds, heals our hearts, and leaves us with inner peace.
Pope Francis visited the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale, a parish located about one mile from the pope’s residence inside Vatican City.
Upon his arrival at the parish, the pope kissed a small Marian icon from his wheelchair and gave a bouquet of flowers to Our Lady. He offered greetings and shook hands with many people inside the parish from his wheelchair.
The pope offered a homily on God’s mercy before leading the parish in the Confiteor prayer.
Many people made confessions to priests — and some to the pope himself — during the Holy Hour at the Roman parish just outside the walls of Vatican City.
Pope Francis hears confessions at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome on Friday, March 17, 2023. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA
Pope Francis began the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative in 2014, one year before he announced the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
The Vatican Dicastery for Evangelization has asked dioceses around the world to once again open churches for 24 hours from Friday, March 17, to Saturday, March 18, to offer the opportunity to make confessions and pray in the presence of eucharistic adoration.
In his homily, Pope Francis asked the parishioners to repeat together the prayer of a tax collector in chapter 18 of the Gospel of Luke: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The pope prayed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! When I forget you or I neglect you, when I prefer my words and those of the world to your own word, when I presume to be righteous and look down on others, when I gossip about others … God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“When I care nothing for those all around me, when I’m indifferent to the poor and the suffering, the weak and the outcast, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! For my sins against life, for my bad example that mars the lovely face of Mother Church, for my sins against creation, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
“For my falsehoods, my duplicity, my lack of honesty and integrity, God, be merciful to me, a sinner. For my hidden sins, for the ways in which I have unconsciously wronged others, and for the good I could have done and yet failed to do, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.