Attention priest readers!
The Holy Father received in audience the Penitenzieria Apostolica and the confessors of the Major Basilicas along with those who participated in the annual course held on the internal form. I have attended that course a half dozen times or so during the years and each year it is rich with helpful information and insights.
This year Pope Benedict addressed the gathering and spoke, as usual, about the Sacrament of Penance. Here are a couple of paragraphs with my rapid translation (my emphasis):
In the mystery process of interior renewal, the confessor is not a passive spectator, but persona dramatis, that is, an active instrument of divine mercy. Moreover, it is necessary that he untie a serious theological, moral and pedagogical preparation to a good spiritual and pastoral sense which makes him able to grasp the lived reality of the person. It is very useful then to know the social, cultural and professional conditions of those who approach the confessional, in order to be able to offer appropriate counsel and spiritual and practical advice. Let the priest not forget that in this Sacrament he is called to fulfill the role of father, of spiritual judge, of teacher and educator….
Dear priests, your ministry above all bears a spiritual character. It is necessary to unite a profound spiritual disposition (vena) nourished by contact with Christ, Teacher and Redeemer, to human wisdom and theological preparation. By virtue of priestly ordination, in fact, the confessor carries out a special service "in persona Christ", with a fulness of human gifts reinforced by Grace. His model is Christ, sent by the Father; the source he draws upon is the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit. Before such a great responsibility, human powers are surely inadequate, the humble and faithful adherence to the salvific plans of Christ makes us, dear brothers, witnesses of the universal redemption which He enacted, putting into effect the warning of St. Paul, who says: "…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself … entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5,19).
To fulfill such a tasl we much above all root this message of salvation in ourselves and allow it to transform us profoundly. We cannot preach forgiveness and reconciliation to others if we have not been personally embued with it. If it is true that in our ministry there are various means and ways to communicate the merciful love of God to the brethren, it is however in the celebration of this Sacrament that we can do it in most complete and observable form. Christ chose us, dear priests, to be the only ones able to forgive sins in His Name: we are therefore dealing with a specific ecclesial service to which we must give priority.