A priest hears a confession in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 28, 2014. God's mercy is highlighted in the sacrament of reconciliation, Pope Francis said in a message to bishops, priests and church workers attending Italy's annual week of liturgical studies. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God's mercy is poured out upon the repentant so that they can change and grow, sharing mercy with others and helping build families, neighborhoods and societies where people learn to forgive, Pope Francis said.
"One is reconciled in order to reconcile," the pope said in a message to bishops, priests and church workers attending Italy's annual week of liturgical studies.
"All liturgy is a place where mercy is encountered and accepted in order to be given, the place where the great mystery of reconciliation is made present, proclaimed, celebrated and communicated," said the papal message, which was released by the Vatican Aug. 22.
Of course, he said, the gift of God's mercy is highlighted and experienced in a special way in the sacrament of penance or reconciliation.
Although the repentance and absolution are personal, he said, "God's mercy cannot be sealed up in intimistic and self-consoling attitudes because its power is seen in its ability to renew people and make them capable of offering others a living experience of the same gift."
Catholics must be helped to see that when they are forgiven, they must learn to forgive others, the pope's message said. The world needs "witnesses of mercy in every sphere," people who can help others desire and learn how to forgive.
"This is a task to which we are all called, especially in the face of the bitterness that entraps too many people who need to find again the joy of interior serenity and the taste of peace," he said.
The rite of the sacrament of reconciliation, the pope said, must be experienced as "a door, not only to re-enter after being away, but also as a threshold open toward the various peripheries of a humanity increasingly in need of compassion."