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Pope Francis explains meaning of penitential act at beginning of Mass

Pope Francis stressed the importance of the penitential act that is carried out at the beginning of the Mass and said it's fundamental to appropriately experiencing the celebration. 

Thus, he urged pilgrims to be conscious of their own sins and ask for God's forgiveness, with humility and sincerity, to be able to participate in the Mass.

Pope Francis gave the example of some characters in the Bible who, despite having offended God, received His forgiveness and experienced his mercy.

SUMMARY OF POPE'S CATECHESIS

Dear brothers and sisters: In our catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, today we consider the penitential rite. To prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the sacred mysteries, we acknowledge, before God and our brothers and sisters, that we have sinned. Significantly, we make this confession as a community, yet in the Confiteor each of us speaks personally: “I confess... that I have sinned.” Like the humble publican in Jesus’ parable, we strike our breast and recognize that we are unworthy of the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We then beg the intercession of OurLady and all the angels and saints to sustain us on the path of holiness and conversion. The priest then pronounces the absolution – “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life”. Unlike the absolution granted in confession, this does not remit mortal sin, yet it expresses our trust in God’s promise of forgiveness and reconciliation. We thus join the great line of biblical figures – like David, the Prodigal Son and Saint Peter – who, conscious of their sin, acknowledged it before God with confidence in the transforming power of his grace.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from Korea, Canada and the United States of America. May each of you, and your families, cherish the joy of this Christmas season, and draw near in prayer to the Prince of Peace who has come to dwell among us. God bless you all!