Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ homily during the Mass he celebrated for the worldwide Capuchin community this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica:
Two attitudes are perceived in the Liturgy of the Word today. An attitude before the grandeur of God, which is expressed in the humility of King Solomon, and another attitude of pettiness that is described by Jesus Himself: as the Doctors of the Law had, for whom everything was precise, who left the Law to one side to observe their little traditions.
Your tradition, of Capuchins, is a tradition of forgiveness, of giving forgiveness. There are so many good confessors among you: it is because they feel themselves sinners, as our friar Christopher. They know they are great sinners, and before the grandeur of God, they pray continually: “Hear, Lord, and forgive” (Cf. 1 Kings 8:30). And because they know how to pray in this way, they know how to forgive. Instead, when someone forgets the need he has for forgiveness, he slowly forgets God, he forgets to ask for forgiveness and does not know how to forgive. The humble one, he who feels himself a sinner, is a great forgiver in the confessional. The others, as these Doctors of the Law that consider themselves “pure” , “teachers,” know only how to condemn.
I speak to you as a brother, and in you I would like to speak to all confessors, especially in this Year of Mercy: the confessional is to forgive. And if you cannot give absolution — I posit this hypothesis – please, do not “beat.” The person who comes, comes to seek comfort, forgiveness, peace in his soul; may he find a Father who embraces him and says: “God loves you very much”; and makes him feel it! And I do not like to say it, but how many people – I think the majority of us have heard it – say: I never go to confession, because once I was asked these questions, they did this to me …” Please …
But you Capuchins have this special gift of the Lord: to forgive. I ask you: do not tire of forgiving! I am thinking of someone I met in another diocese, a man of government who then, once his time of government as guardian and provincial ended, was sent at 70 to a shrine to hear confessions. And this man had a queue of people, everyone, everyone: priests, faithful, rich, poor, all! He was a great forgiver. He always found a way to forgive, or at least to leave a soul in peace with an embrace. And once I went to see him and he said to me: “Listen, you are a Bishop and you can tell me: I think I sin because I forgive too much, and I get this scruple …” “Why?” – “I don’t know, but I always find a way to forgive …” – “And what do you do, when you feel like this?” – “I go to the chapel, before the Tabernacle, and I say to the Lord: Sorry, Lord, forgive me. I think I have forgiven too much today. But, Lord, it was you who gave me the bad example!” See. Be men of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of peace.
There are so many languages in life: the language of word, and there are also languages of gestures. If a person approaches me, at the confessional, it is because he feels something that weighs on him, which he wants to remove from himself. Perhaps he does not know how to say it, but this is his gesture. If such a person approaches, it is because he wishes to change, not to do something something anymore, to change, to be another sort of person, and he says it with the gesture of approaching, he says it with the gesture of approaching. It is not necessary to ask questions: “But you, you …?” If a person comes, it is because in his soul he does not want to do something anymore. But so often they cannot, because they are conditioned by their psychology, by their life, by their situation … “Ad impossbilia nemo tenetur.”
A wide heart … Forgiveness … Forgiveness is a seed, it is a caress of God. Have trust in God’s forgiveness. Do not fall into Pelagianism! “You must do this, and this, and this, and this …” But you have this charism of confessors: take it up again, renew it always. And be great forgivers, because one who does not know how to forgive ends up as these Doctors of the Gospel: he is a great condemner, always ready to accuse … And, who is the great accuser in the Bible? The devil! Either you do the office of Jesus, who forgives giving his life, prayer, many hours there, seated, as those two [Saint Leopold and Saint Pio]; or you do the office of the devil who condemns, accuses … I don’t know, I am unable to say anything else to you. In you I say it to all, to all the priests that hear confessions. And if they do not feel like it, they must be humble and say: “No, no, I celebrate Mass, clean the floor, do everything, but I do not hear confessions because I don’t know how to do it well.” And ask the Lord for grace, a grace that I ask for each one of you, for all of you, for all confessors, also for myself.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]