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Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth appeals to the faithful in his diocese to focus on God’s mercy and forgiveness this Lenten season

In a pastoral letter to be read out loud during Mass in all churches on Sunday, Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan appealed to the faithful in his diocese to always make a regular confession.

In his letter Bishop Egan said: “I need to speak to you about something serious that some of you will no doubt find provocative. Pope Francis, in the document establishing the Year of Mercy, said: ‘During the Jubilee Year, the season of Lent should be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy.’

“Now my question to you is this: When did you last go to Confession? How on Earth can we be sure to experience personally One-to-one the mercy of God, without at some point – and I would say regularly, even once a month – celebrating this Sacrament?" he asked.

“Let’s be candid: Jesus did not come to call virtuous people. This is why we all need regularly to examine our consciences, to review our thoughts, words and deeds, to take stock of our attitudes and life-style. Sin is not like a stain to be dry-cleaned or a law infringed. Sin is a lack of love or lovelessness. Sin is often an omission rather than a commission. Think of it like ‘missing the mark’," the letter added.

The Bishop said that he was not saying these things to make anyone feel embarrassed or guilty, but “simply to encourage you this Lent to receive the joy of God’s mercy. I hope that one lasting grace from this Holy Year will be a renewal of this breathtaking Sacrament".

This year, Pope Francis himself is leading a worldwide initiative called “24 Hours for the Lord," now in its second year, March 13-14.

“Do not be afraid of confession!" he said in his traditional weekly audience in February 2014. “When one is in line to go to confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then, when one finishes confession, one leaves free, grand, beautiful, forgiven, candid, happy. This is the beauty of confession!"



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