The rate of people attending Confession has increased “dramatically” during the Year of Mercy, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said.
Speaking during a press conference today at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference headquarters, the cardinal said: “diocese by diocese, parish by parish”, the rate of people going to Confession had “increased dramatically during the past 6 months”.
The press conference followed a plenary meeting with the Catholic bishops during which they discussed the latest papal encyclical Amores Laetitia and released a statement on the papal document.
In the statement, the bishops noted the emphasis on better marriage preparation for engaged couples. They said: “Pope Francis presents the challenge of educating people for lifelong love. Parents, as the first educators of their children, supported by schools, are given this challenge so that an integral moral and spiritual life is developed. The Exhortation pays special attention to the education of the conscience informed by the teaching of the Church so that people are enabled to grow in their faith and spiritual lives (cf 37).
“Formation of pastoral workers, and the formation of priests and deacons, must involve married couples and include preparation for the effective pastoral care of families. The Exhortation pays special attention to the very important tasks of marriage preparation and the care of families at different stages of married life (250ff). “Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.”
Regarding couples living in irregular situations, the bishops said: “Pope Francis states that pastors are not only responsible for promoting Christian marriage, but also for the pastoral discernment of their situation before God of a great many who no longer live this reality (293).
“In the particular case of the divorced and civilly remarried, there is a need to consider both these elements which can lead to a greater openness to the gospel of marriage in its fullness and those factors which may limit a free response to the Gospel in order to understand the subjective situation of a person before God. ‘Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any irregular situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace’ (301). Through this spiritual discernment they should feel confident in the promise of God’s mercy, the love of the Church and discover the next step in their response to God.
“Pope Francis therefore encourages all who find themselves in difficult situations to speak confidently to their priests in order to understand their personal situation before God and discover a path of personal growth.”
They added: “The remarkable increase in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which, in many places, is an early fruit of the Year of Mercy, encourages us that this invitation will indeed be taken up.”
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