Pope Francis heard confessions in St. Peter’s Square

Pope Francis does things that annoy me, that puzzle me, that surprise me and that please me.

Today was one of the later.  He could stick to this sort of thing, in my book!



From The Daily Mail:

The Catholic act of penance is normally conducted in the privacy of a confessional box.
But 16 teenagers carried out the traditional rite in front of thousands of young Catholic faithfuls as they confessed their sins to Pope Francis on chairs in the middle of St Peter’s Square.
The youths were given the unexpected opportunity as the Pontiff made a surprise appearance for a special Holy Year youth day at the Vatican in Italy late on Saturday morning.

Francis and each of the 16 teenagers sat face-to-face in simple chairs set up in pairs for him and many others hearing confessions near the famed Colonnade of Bernini.
The teenagers seemed at ease, with Francis shaking hands warmly with the youths. In all, the pope spent over an hour in the square.



It is great that Francis wants to hear confessions (what he was ordained to do).  And it is great that he underscores the importance of confessions (what he is obliged to do now).

Fathers, please hear confessions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Vincent says:

    I would go to confession, but there are none near me. This truly makes me sorrowful, that the church is in such a state that a Catholic can struggle to get to confession on a regular basis.

    Go Pope Francis! Truly, being merciful like the Father.

  2. Girraffeed says:

    Is anyone else weirded out by all the pictures of the pope hearing confessions?

    I mean, I’m glad that he did it, but maybe don’t put a picture of every single one of his penitents online.

    I guess maybe there is an exception? “Confession is private, unless you happen into the Pope’s line, then… good luck?”

  3. majuscule says:


    Hey, they’re young folks. They probably wouldn’t mind selfies with the Holy Father. Maybe they even took some!

  4. Michael says:

    I have been greatly impressed by how the Holy Father champions confessions. Long after this pontificate ends, people will replay the video showing how he broke away during a public event to confess his sins and be reconciled completely with our Lord and Savior. (I say this not to suggest that the Holy Father has any great, noteworthy sins, but rather that we all commit countless venial sins every day, even if only in our thoughts. While those do not strictly require confession, it is a noble practice nonetheless.)

    With that said, confession in public? In front of a crowd? Without even a confessional box to shield the penitent from lip reading, etc.? Strikes me as a bit problematic.

  5. Papabile says:


    I appreciate the Pope hearing Confessions. Would that he would walk to a Confessional box and spend 2 hours a week in it every week. THAT would make an impression (not that this does not).

    But I am a little weirded out by the Priest sitting directly behind them. Is it an interpreter? Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply find spanish speakers for him? The sense I had was interpreters shoudl be used only when another Priest was not available. But, I may be completely wrong on this. Who knows?

    But that seems to be a daily theme in this pontificate. Who knows?

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If you go to a public event where there are priests, and a lot of people want to go to Confession, you pretty frequently have to go to Confession in public in front of a crowd (or at least a line, which may be closer than one likes). Sometimes you have to rely on other people giving you privacy, and everybody at this event was supposedly Catholic.

    And lip reading from the side is difficult.

  7. Will D. says:

    Papabile: “But I am a little weirded out by the Priest sitting directly behind them. Is it an interpreter?”
    There are two priests sitting behind Pope Francis, and they’re both also hearing confessions.

    I’d much rather go to confession behind the screen in a confessional, but I have seen this sort of arrangement before and I don’t see a major problem with it.

  8. seattle_cdn says:

    It’s not an interpreter. There are three pairs of chairs, hence three confessional stands. That’s just another confession going on behind,

  9. Nan says:

    Giraffeed, the contents of confession are private, but may be visible. In the Ruthenian Church, confession takes place in front of all, up by the iconostasis. There’s nobody close enough to hear if one speaks quietly, just like the parish with curtains on the confessional, where people whisper. Note also that in St Peter’s square it’s unlikely that anyone will overheat due to the crowds but anyone overhearing is bound by the seal of the confessional.

    How great it is that the Holy Father shows those who deem confession to be so pre-Vatican II as to be unnecessary in this enlightened age thast it is still necessary.

  10. Binker67 says:

    Teach about it (Confession).
    Preach about it.
    Make it available as much as possible.

    Priests: don’t pull a face or make a wise crack when someone asks for it. It can take a lot of courage for someone to approach a priest face to face and ask for confession.
    Penitents: have the courage to ask for it. Even at an awkward time. You may have to wait, but once you’ve asked for the Sacrament your in the safe zone.
    What a wonderful gift our Lord has given the Church.
    I can truly say that I have never had a terrible time in Confession. I may have had some lengthy penances, but compared to eternity without God, what are a few moments on one’s knees reflecting on one’s actions.

  11. Binker67 says:

    P.S Like Fr.Z, Pope Francis can dive me mad at times, but this time, spot on Holy Father. What a great witness to the Sacrament.

  12. un-ionized says:

    Wow, I wish I could have been in the Pope’s line! Looking at the picture, it was taken from far away with a long lens stopped down, the confession stations are very far apart.

  13. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Just heard what could be a good one for the Missionaries of Mercy initiative too. A nearby parish is having an MM and other priests to have an extra two hours of confessions one afternoon next week. Someone I know who hasn’t been to confession in about fifty years expressed interest in going. Prayers for Rose please!

  14. SumusResNovarum says:

    I work with teens and they LOVE going to confession – to the point where they are not afraid to request it from one of our priests or go on a Saturday. What made that happen was teaching them that confession isn’t a counseling session where your life story need be told – be contrite, confess your sins, receive absolution, do your penance. That shift (combined with a pastor who is loved and feared equally – a great priest) has made huge strides with the what we do as youth ministry and Confirmation preparation, as well.

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