A recent survey carried out by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales shows a marked increase in the number of people making confessions.
A telephone and e-mail survey of 22 cathedrals revealed that 65% reported an increase in the number of confessions being heard. The reasons behind the change were reported as a combination of the impact of the papal visit by Benedict XVI and the influence of Pope Francis.
“This summer there has been a marked difference in demand compared to last summer. There has been an increase. We don’t usually offer confessions in August but have done this year,” commented one of the respondents to the survey.
“I’m observing more interest in the Catholic Church. There has been more interest in people wanting to become Catholics being brought by existing Catholics,” another noted.
“There is definitely an increase in lapsed seeking confession since the election of Pope Francis,” said one of the replies.
One reply observed that there has been a “Papal bounce,” in the sacraments. “The election of Pope Francis has brought a great sense of hope and enthusiasm. I also think that it has brought great confidence as the Pope engages so easily with people and has made such a huge impact in so short a time. It also reflects on the humility and faith of Pope Emeritus Benedict whose visit to Britain had such a profound effect and was a great success.”
A number of the replies observed that there was a return to confession by those who had been away from the sacrament for a long period of time. In some cases people who had not confessed for twenty or thirty years were coming along.
An increased number of younger adults have also been coming to confession. As well, attendance at Mass has increased.
At Westminster Cathedral confessions are available for a total of 45 hours a week. This, however, is turning out to be insufficient to meet the demand. Popular devotions, such as the first Friday, are also drawing more people.
Promoting in pubs
On September 10 Michael Campbell, Bishop of Lancaster, issued a statement regarding the experience of his diocese in promoting confession during Advent and Lent.
The Light is ON for YOU campaign involved every parish church being open for an hour on a Wednesday evening for confessions.
The initiative also involved widespread promotion of the availability of confessions in shopping centers and pubs.
Many priests reported significant numbers of people returning to confession after many years of absence.