This afternoon, Pope Francis began the Festival of Forgiveness, the 24 hours for the Lord, with a Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The initiative of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization has been welcomed by dioceses worldwide, which are hosting their own round-the-clock prayer and confession services.
“’24 Hours for the Lord,’ is receiving enormous support,” Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the council, told ZENIT a few hours before the vigil began. “Hundreds of localities are reporting their participation to us and we know that there are many others who will observe it even if they haven’t communicated it to us.”
The “24 Hours for the Lord” began in Rome at 5:00 pm local time, with a Mass presided over by the Holy Father in Saint Peter’s Basilica. It will end on Saturday at the same time in the shrine of Divine Mercy, three blocks from the Vatican. It is an event to which everyone is invited, going to their churches in any part of the world, even if they cannot do the night vigil.
The archbishop mentioned to ZENIT the names of some of the hundreds of localities listed on the pages he held in his hand, and he recalled the close relation that exists between a new evangelization and the sacrament of reconciliation, as the bishops pointed out in the Synod on the New Evangelization, which was held in the Vatican in 2012.
“It will be an experience of New Evangelization, not only in Rome, but in all these dioceses, these churches will be open at the same time, some all night, others some hours, but in the Lenten Season it means a key moment to rethink one’s life and to live the experience of forgiveness,” said Archbishop Fisichella.
In regard to the relation between the new evangelization and confession, the head of the dicastery pointed out that “during the Synod many Fathers indicated that the sacrament of reconciliation should be the sacrament of the new evangelization.” And he added: “the Synod solicited and wrote a proposition in which it states that ‘it is desired that in each diocese there be at least one place known by all where there is always a good priest to receive persons to give the sacrament of reconciliation and the sign of God’s mercy.”
The Italian archbishop added that “in this sacrament, evangelization has an important point of reference, because it is a help with which one reaches the heart of our contemporaries, who are asked to reflect on their life, their limitations, their sin and hence to feel the need for conversion in face of the proclamation of the Gospel.”
Asked why Pope Francis insists that this is a time of mercy, Archbishop Fisichella said: “It is a time of mercy because it is a time in which there is greater weakness and this weakness and limitation is perceived more. It is a weakness that is becoming almost structural, a weakness of thought that is reflected in the weakness of ways of behavior and also in the crisis of people, who experience forms of poverty not known previously, given their present gravity and breadth, but also the sign of the greater presence of spirituality. Where there is weakness signs of hope must be given and the proclamation of the Gospel, of mercy; it is precisely this.”
“Today we are all invited at Saint Peter’s and in all the churches everywhere where this proclamation reaches, to make our own this warm and significant invitation made by the Pope,” the archbishop concluded. “It is a moment of joy and also of commitment.”