Pope Francis set the example for Catholics worldwide, as he stepped up to a confession booth and confessed before a packed St. Peter's Basilica. With this small but powerful gesture, he kicked off the "24 Hours for the Lord” initiative around the world.
Moments before, during his homily, the Pope highlighted that conversion is not just for Lent, but a life-long process to steer away from sin. He then talked about two elements that are "essential to Christian life” during this period of conversion. The first is a personal renewal.
"Human beings are worth more for what they are than what they have. Set your eyes on the essential. This is the difference between a life deformed by sin, and one illuminated by grace. From the heart of renewed person, according to God, comes all good behavior.”
The second element, Pope Francis added, is to retain a love for Christ. He said His love is never-ending because it comes from God Himself, and that it removes all sin, giving people a new start.
"Our Father never tires of loving, and his eyes never tire of looking at the path toward home to see if His son, which has left and is lost, returns. We can talk about the God's hope. Our Father always waits for us. He not only leaves the door open, he waits.”
After his homily, the Pope left aside his purple cassock. He walked from the altar to the confession booths on the left side of the Basilica. But before stepping inside one, he went up to a priest and confessed himself. The entire process took less than ten minutes.
Once he finished, he took a seat inside another confession booth and listened as several penitents confessed themselves. In fact, large lines of people formed waiting for their chance to be confessed and absolved by the Pope.