Pope Francis presided over this penitential Lenten ceremony. It is part of the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative. It is the sixth edition this special day has been celebrated. It is dedicated to remembering the importance of the sacrament of confession and Eucharistic adoration. For this reason, each diocese has been encouraged to at least open parish for 24 hours a day.
St. Peter's Basilica opened up many confessionals with priests available for those who wanted to go to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Pope Francis focused his homily on mercy. He explained that before taking into account the sin committed, it is necessary to fix one's gaze on the sinner.
“Let us ask for the grace of a gaze like that of Jesus, let us ask to have the Christian perspective on life. Let us look with love upon the sinner before his or her sin; upon the one going astray before his or her error; upon the person before his or her history.”
The pope assured everyone that Jesus' mercy truly transforms and writes the law of the spirit upon the heart of man and woman.
“With Jesus, the mercy of God incarnate, the time has come when God writes on the hearts of men and women, when He gives a sure hope to human misery: giving not so much external laws which often keep God and humanity at a distance, but rather the law of the Spirit which enters into the heart and sets it free.”
However, the pope also warned of the power of evil. He asserted that sin cannot be overcome unless one seeks God's love. This is why he invited everyone to go to the sacrament of confession.
“Confession is the passage from misery to mercy; it is God’s writing upon the heart. There, in our hearts, we constantly see that we are precious in the eyes of God, that He is our Father and that He loves us even more than we love ourselves. God’s forgiveness is not a photocopy which is identically reproduced in every passage through the confessional. Receiving pardon for our sins through a priest is always a new, distinctive and unique experience.”
Afterward, St. Peter's Basilica went completely silent to begin the examination of conscience.
Pope Francis a few minutes later then went to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. After, he listened to the confessions of some people who also came to seek forgiveness.