Quarantine guidelines are forcing every institution to rethink its praxis, and that holds extra true for the mother of all institutions: the Catholic Church. On Friday, Pope Francis addressed the faithful worldwide who can’t go to confession because of their community’s self-isolation rules and the fact that, in many cases, churches have shuttered to flatten the curve. The Pope encouraged Catholics not to worry, assuring them that they can “go to God directly.”
“This is the right time, the opportune moment, said the Pope. “An act of contrition done well, and our souls will become white like the snow.”
Italy has been tragically hard hit by COVID-19, with 5,476 deaths attributed to the pandemic as of the most recent count. The novel coronavirus shows no sign of slowing down in the country that surrounds the Vatican, even as health officials struggle to enforce strict stay-at-home laws.
That’s why the Pope used his talk to assure people that going out to confess to a priest was not necessary to be forgiven.
“But many people today would tell me, ‘Father, where can I find a priest, a confessor, because I can’t leave the house? And I want to make peace with the Lord, I want him to embrace me, I want the Father’s embrace.’” Pope Francis said. “Do what the Catechism (of the Catholic Church) says. It is very clear: If you cannot find a priest to confess to, speak directly with God, your father, and tell him the truth. Say, ‘Lord, I did this, this, this. Forgive me,’ and ask for pardon with all your heart.”
The Pope appeared to be referring to The Catechism of the Catholic Church, N. 1452, which says: “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ – contrition of charity. Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”
Moreover, the Vatican announced that bishops could choose to offer special group absolution to any Catholics affected by the pandemic, including those suffering from COVID-19, healthcare workers and those who die from the virus before receiving absolution.
“This Apostolic Penitentiary holds that, especially in the places most affected by the pandemic contagion and until the phenomenon ends, there are cases of grave need,” said a note from the tribunal. The note said that confession, along with other conditions like attending Mass, should still be obeyed “as soon as they are possible.”
The Pope urged listeners not to wait to confess their sins, but to take the opportunity.
“You can draw near to God’s forgiveness without having a priest at hand,” he said. “Think about it. This is the moment.”