Holy Father launches 24-hour Festival of Forgiveness at St Peter's Basilica

Pope Francis has surprised his master of ceremonies by going to Confession in public himself during a penance service.

After an examination of conscience, the Pope and 61 priests moved into confessionals or to chairs set up against the walls to offer the sacrament to individual penitents.

However, as Mgr Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, was showing which confessional the pope would be using to hear Confessions, the pope pointed to another confessional nearby, indicating that he himself was going to first confess.

The Pope, dressed in a simple white alb and purple stole, spent about three minutes kneeling before the priest’s open confessional and received absolution. The priest also clasped the Pope’s hands and kissed his simple silver ring.

Pope Francis then went to another confessional and spent about 40 minutes hearing Confessions.