VATICAN CITY, 14 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Yesterday afternoon, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, penitentiary major of the Apostolic Penitentiary, read out a Message from the Pope to participants in a course on the "internal forum". The course, organised annually by the Apostolic Penitentiary, was held this week in Rome.
"One pastoral priority of our own times", writes the Pope in his Message, "is the correct formation of believers' consciences, because ... in the extent to which the idea of sin is lost, so unfortunately the sense of guilt increases, which it is then sought to eliminate through inadequate palliative remedies".
In order to form consciences, the Pope mentions such means as "catechism, preaching, homilies, spiritual guidance, the Sacrament of Penance and the celebration of the Eucharist".
"Adequate catechesis", he says, "stimulates consciences to better perceive the sense of sin, which today has become somewhat faded or, worse still, obfuscated by an 'etsi Deus non daretur' way of thinking and living, ... denoting a relativism closed to the true meaning of life,
"Catechesis must be accompanied by a wise use of preaching", he adds, highlighting how the homily "is without doubt the most widespread form of preaching with which the consciences of millions of faithful are educated every Sunday. In the recent Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the Word of God in the Church, a number of Synod Fathers rightly stressed the value and importance of homilies, which must be adapted to the modern mentality".
Benedict XVI continues his Message: "Spiritual guidance also has a contribution to make to the formation of consciences. Today more than ever there is need for wise and saintly 'masters of the spirit'. Theirs is an important ecclesial service which requires interior vitality, to be implored as a gift of the Holy Spirit through intense and prolonged prayer, and through carefully-acquired training.
"Priests", he adds, "are called to administer divine mercy in the Sacrament of Penance, through which they remit sins in the name of Christ and help penitents to follow the demanding path of sanctity with an upright and informed conscience. In order to accomplish this indispensable ministry, each priest must nourish his own spiritual life and ensure his own ongoing theological and pastoral 'aggiornamento'".
The Pope also highlights how "believers' consciences are purified through devout and conscientious participation in Mass, which is the sacrifice of Christ for the remission of sin".At the end of his Message, the Holy Father calls upon participants in the course "to maintain an awareness of the need to be worthy ministers of divine mercy and responsible educators of consciences, May you draw inspiration from the saintly confessors and masters of the spirit, among whom I particularly wish to mention St. Jean Marie Vianney, 'Cure of Ars', the 150th anniversary of whose death is being commemorated this year".