Bishop Egan says in a pastoral letter that sin is not like a 'stain to be dry-cleaned' but more a 'lack of love or lovelessness'

The Bishop of Portsmouth has appealed to his diocese to attend Confession regularly in a pastoral letter to be read out in all churches on Sunday.

In the letter Bishop Philip Egan said: “I need to speak to you about something serious that some of you will no doubt find provocative. Pope Francis, in the document establishing the Year of Mercy, said: ‘During the Jubilee Year, the season of Lent should … be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.’

“Now my question to you is this: When did you last go to Confession? How on Earth can we be sure to experience personally One-to-one the mercy of God, without at some point – and I would say regularly, even once a month – celebrating this Sacrament?” he asked.

“Let’s be candid: Jesus did not come to call virtuous people. This is why we all need regularly to examine our consciences, to review our thoughts, words and deeds, to take stock of our attitudes and life-style. Sin is not like a stain to be dry-cleaned or a law infringed. Sin is a lack of love or lovelessness. Sin is often an omission rather than a commission. Think of it like ‘missing the mark’.”

Bishop Egan said that he was not making his remarks “to make you feel bad, ashamed or guilty”.

But “simply to encourage you this Lent to receive the joy of God’s mercy. I hope that one lasting grace from this Holy Year will be a renewal of this breathtaking Sacrament”.

He also announced that, on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Sunday March 6), the Pope has asked the whole Church to undertake 24 Hours for the Lord. Clergy will nominate one church in each pastoral area to host 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration, with Confessions at designated times.