The celebration in St. Peter's Basilica today took place according to the rite for communitarian reconciliation, with confession and individual absolution.
Presiding, in the name of Benedict XVI, was Cardinal James Stafford, major penitentiary, who explained in his homily that "the darkness of sin will never be able to suppress the light of divine mercy."
The cardinal pointed out that this is the answer for the many people who wonder if it is possible to forgive, especially when it is a question of wicked crimes, such as violence against children or the mass killing of innocents.
Archbishop Piero Marini, master of pontifical liturgical celebrations, had explained that the rite had been a tradition in Rome on Holy Thursday until the Renaissance.
Today, after a procession in silence and prayer before a crucifix, the ceremony continued with the Liturgy of the Word, and Cardinal Stafford's homily.
The Rite of Reconciliation then took place, which included the formula for the confession of sins, followed by invocations for pardon and the Our Father.
Individual confessions then began. Sixty confessors were available, administering the sacrament in 26 languages.
During the ceremony, the faithful sang psalms and invocations for forgiveness.
The ceremony ended with Cardinal Stafford's brief exhortation to carry out good works, and with thanksgiving and a blessing.