Catholic Church in drive to increase confessions
Following an increase in the number of believers going to confession, a Catholic bishop is encouraging even more of the faithful to take up the practice during Lent.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a core part of Catholic tradition, where those of the faith share their sins confidentially with a priest to bring about a process of forgiveness and healing. Pope Francis has heralded the practice as a "celebration", and admitted that he himself goes to confession twice a month.
"While the celebration of the sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the universality of the Church which accompanies us on the path of conversion," he explained during an address in St Peter's Square last Wednesday.
"Forgiveness is not something we can give ourselves. One asks forgiveness, one asks it of another person, and in confession, we ask forgiveness from Jesus.
"The sacrament of reconciliation is a sacrament of healing. When I go to confession, it's for healing: healing the soul, healing the heart because of something that I did to make it unwell," he said.
The 'Francis Effect', which has seen the new pontiff enjoy unprecedented popularity, means that his words are likely to result in even more Catholics heading to the confession box, so Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Kieran Conry's drive to encourage just that is timely.
A survey by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales last summer indicated that 65 per cent of priests were experiencing a significant increase in the number of people coming to confession, and attributed it to Pope Francis' influence.
The bishop's new online initiative, 'Confession 2014', provides teaching videos, testimonies, a how-to confession guide and the Catechism among other resources for Catholics considering engaging with the tradition.
Quoted on much of the advertising for the project are the following words from Pope Francis himself: "Jesus receives us with all our limitations, he brings us the mercy of the Father who forgives us, and transforms our heart, rendering it a new heart, capable of loving him, who loved his own to the end. And this love is manifested in his mercy. Jesus always forgives us."
Bishop Conry said the digital age had offered up even more resources to help people with confession.
"I've observed in recent years that more young people, in particular, are celebrating the Sacrament with an increasing number using digital apps to help them prepare and guide them though. There are a number of digital tools available to help people," he said.
"As Lent starts on 5 March – the time of the Church's year traditionally associated with repentance and forgiveness – the bishops are providing new materials to encourage people to go along and rediscover the channel of God's love and mercy."
One of the video testimonies features Margaret Mizen, a committed Catholic and mother of Jimmy Mizen who was murdered almost six years ago.
Having been able to forgive the man who killed her son, she is a strong believer in the power of reconciliation and wants to encourage others to find the same freedom she now enjoys.
"It's really my way of just being able to sit down and talk to God," she says of confession. "When you forgive and learn to let go, your eyes are opened to a whole new world."
To access the resources, go to www.catholicnews.org.uk/confession
Daily tweets will also be send out during Lent: follow @catholicew