Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, delivered that message today, the first full day of the Spiritual Exercises. The Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia began the retreat on Sunday afternoon.
The retreat, being held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, finishes Saturday.
According to Vatican Radio, Cardinal Biffi in the first meditation this morning reflected on the main tenets of Lent: conversion, that is, the sense of sin and repentance.
The Lenten liturgy, he said, is characterized by a phrase that represents the beginning of Jesus' public proclamation: "Repent and believe in the Gospel."
Not if, but what
Cardinal Biffi said that this is not a time in which the believer examines if there is something to change in himself, but rather sees what he must change. And conversion begins with the heart, through interior repentance, on the condition that the disciple firmly deplores his faults, the preacher added.
Thus, the believer has the certainty of divine mercy, and so repentance leads necessarily to profound joy, the 78-year-old cardinal explained.
According to Cardinal Biffi, today it is said there is no repentance because the sense of sin has been lost. However, he added, this is not totally true, since the era is characterized by the constant denunciation of sin in the media and in courts.
This means that the sense of sin exists -- but the sense of sin that others commit, the cardinal said.
He said the repentance that saves is that which recognizes one's own errors; to move away from one's faults is to come closer to God as he is the antithesis of evil.