In the South American nation of Colombia – where an estimated 70 percent of the population identifies as Catholic – it is not unusual to encounter Catholic priests at a cathedral, or perhaps at a religious school or hospital.
Seeing scores of priests at a shopping mall, on the other hand, is a less frequent occurrence.
But for thousands of shoppers at Gran Estación Mall in Bogota, Colombia last week, that’s exactly what happened.
Some 350 priests congregated at the mall to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a “Confess-a-thon" held Oct. 6-7.
Shoppers were surprised to see the priests, who were spread out at different stations throughout the mall, offering opportunities for Confession, or just to talk.
Many took advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s good to draw near to the Lord, to be reconciled, to give up all this evil," said Luz Alba, a woman at the Bogota mall, according to the Colombian Bishops Conference.
The bishops’ conference reported on the event on its website. It shared the testimony of Father Ariel Viáfara, a priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of Guapi.
“It’s a marvelous opportunity to go out to the people so they can be reconciled with God," the priest said.
Fr. Hernán Baéz explained that the mall was chosen because it contains a chapel and prayer room, run by the Lord of the Beatitudes Parish, which Fr. Baéz heads.
“What we were able to accomplish with these days of Confession is to show that the merciful Jesus walks through the streets, even in a mall," he said.