Vatican City, 29 March 2014 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon in St. Peter's Basilica the Holy Father presided over the rite of Reconciliation, confessing and imparting individual absolution to several penitents. This ceremony inaugurated an initiative of the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation, "24 Hours for the Lord", which has involved the participation of dioceses from all over the world, and during which many churches remained open throughout Friday night and Saturday morning to enable the faithful to confess.

In his homily, the Pope mentioned that during Lent the Church renews her call for conversion and her call for us to change our lives. "Converting is not a question of a moment or a period during the year: it is a life-long commitment. Who amongst us presumes not to be a sinner? No-one. We all are. The Apostle John writes, 'If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness'". And that is what happens in this celebration and in all this day of penance. The Word of God that we have listened to introduces us to two essential elements of Christian life".

The first is to "clothe ourselves as new men". Pope Francis explained, "The new man, 'created to be like God', is born in Baptism, where he receives the same life of God, which makes us His children and incorporates us in Christ and in his Church. This new life allows us to look at reality through different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not count ... from things which come to an end over time. For this reason we are required to abandon sinful behaviour and to focus on the essential. 'A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has'. This is the difference between life deformed by sin and life illuminated by grace".

Remaining in love is the second element. "Jesus Christ's love lasts for ever, and will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives the strength to rise and begin again, because through forgiveness the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. We all know this: our Father never tires of loving. ...We can speak about the hope of God: our Father always awaits us; not only does he leave the door open, he awaits us. ... God is not only at the origin of love, but in Jesus Christ he calls to us to imitate his own way of loving: 'As I have loved you, so you must love one another'. To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Jesus Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain closed up in itself. It is by its nature open, it spreads and it is fruitful, it always generates new love".

The Pope concluded by mentioning the initiative, "24 Hours for the Lord", and inviting young people to participate in this as missionaries of reconciliation, communicating to those they meet "the joy of receiving the Father's forgiveness and of rediscovering full friendship with Him. And tell them", he concluded, "that our Father awaits us, our Father forgives us, our Father celebrates us. If you go to Him with all your life, even with many sins, instead of reproaching you, he will rejoice: this is our Father. You must say this, you must tell many people, today. He who experiences divine mercy is compelled to become a bringer of mercy to the least and the poorest among us. In 'the least of these brothers and sisters', Jesus awaits us".

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