Priest Is Witness of God´s Mercy, Says Peruvian Cardinal

Archbishop of Lima Calls for Rediscovery of Sacrament of Confession

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LIMA, Peru, JUNE 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Priests should make time to be available to hear confessions, and they approach the sacrament in humility, urges the primate of Peru in a new pastoral letter.



"Ministers of Mercy" is the fourth pastoral letter of Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima and primate of Peru. It is addressed to priests and calls for the rediscovery of the full value of reconciliation, a gift of God´s mercy.

In the light of John Paul II´s recent apostolic letter "Misericordia Dei," the cardinal´s letter reaffirms the mission of the priest and his raison d´être as a "minister of God´s forgiveness."

Cardinal Cipriani reminds priests that, when they hear the faithful´s confession, they become an instrument and privileged witness "of the miracles that divine mercy is capable of effecting in a heart that opens to it through repentance and heartfelt sorrow."

For years, the sacrament of reconciliation has been going through "a long crisis," the cardinal noted. He blames the problem on, among other things, the loss of the sense of sin, the result of secularization and doctrinal confusion.

He appealed to priests to "dedicate time and energy to listen to the faithful´s confessions. They are happy to receive this sacrament when they know that the priests are available."

The pastoral letter also points out the means to recover sacramental confession: to teach a thorough catechesis on the sacrament and its effects, to work in the formation of the faithful´s conscience, and to live reconciliation as the dynamic of "meeting."

The cardinal traces the characteristics of a good confessor: He prepares in prayer, "seeking the Holy Spirit to obtain from him the wisdom and the gift of discernment of spirits." In addition, the confessor is up to date in his formation, and knows the ills of the soul and how to cure them, always in fidelity to the truth.

The minister of reconciliation also knows how to "encourage the penitent in his struggles and difficulties [...] opening a horizon of hope that is based on the mercy of God," Cardinal Cipriani added.

More importantly, "the good confessor lives humility when he is hearing confessions, because at all times he is aware that he is an active instrument of divine grace, and not the protagonist of the sacrament," he concluded.

The text of the Spanish-language pastoral letter is at arzobispadodelima.org/.