Pope Francis made the plea at a penitential liturgy in St Peter's Basilica before hearing Confessions

Pope Francis urged Catholics “cast aside all that prevents us from racing” towards God, standing before Him and being “forgiven and recreated” by Him, at a penitential liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica.

After presiding at the service the Pope went to Confession before hearing Confessions himself as part of the worldwide “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative.

The initiative, which is in its third year, is intended to encourage people to return to Confession by having churches and cathedrals open through the night.

In his address at the penitential liturgy Pope Francis said sin “impoverishes us and isolates us”.

“It is a blindness of the spirit, which prevents us from seeing what is most important, from fixing our gaze on the love that gives us life. This blindness leads us little by little to dwell on what is superficial, until we are indifferent to others and to what is good,” the Pope said.

“How many temptations have the power to cloud the heart’s vision and to make it myopic! How easy and misguided it is to believe that life depends on what we have, on our successes and on the approval we receive; to believe that the economy is only for profit and consumption; that personal desires are more important than social responsibility! When we only look to ourselves, we become blind, lifeless and self-centred, devoid of joy and true freedom.

“But Jesus is passing by,” the Pope said. “he is passing by, and he halts … Jesus’s closeness to us makes us see that when we are far from him there is something important missing from our lives. His presence makes us feel in need of salvation, and this begins the healing of our heart.”

The Pope added: “This Jubilee of Mercy is the favourable time to welcome God’s presence, to experience his love and to return to him with all our heart …

“Let us cast off our cloak and rise to our feet: that is, let us cast aside all that prevents us from racing towards him, unafraid of leaving behind those things which make us feel safe and to which we are attached.

“Let us not remain sedentary, but let us get up and find our spiritual worth again, our dignity as loved sons and daughters who stand before the Lord so that we can be seen by him, forgiven and recreated,” the Pope said.

In remarks for pastors, the Pope said: “We need to re-examine those behaviours of ours which at times do not help others to draw close to Jesus.

“We must certainly not water down the demands of the Gospel, but we cannot risk frustrating the desire of the sinner to be reconciled with the Father.”

The Pope added: “We have been sent to inspire courage, to support and to lead others to Jesus. Our ministry is one of accompaniment, so that the encounter with the Lord may be personal and intimate, and the heart may open itself to the Saviour in honesty and without fear. May we not forget: it is God alone who is at work in every person.”

The full text of the Pope’s address can be read here.

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Dec 2 2016 cover