VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Church needs "wise and holy spiritual teachers" who are able not only to hear confessions, but also to educate consciences.
The Pope said this in a letter sent by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on the occasion of Italy's 60th National Liturgical Week, being held in Barletta with the theme: "Celebrate Mercy: 'Let Yourselves Be Reconciled With God.'"
The letter is addressed to Bishop Felice de Molfetta of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano, president of Italy's Center of Liturgical Action.
The Pontiff noted that this year's focus on the sacrament of reconciliation to be "a particularly opportune choice" given the meeting marks "35 years after the new Rite of Penance came into force for the Church in Italy, and in happy coincidence with the Year for Priests."
"The objective of your meeting consists in understanding the whole penitential process of Christian life, in which the sacrament is integrated as an intense moment, always in an ecclesial context," the letter continued. "It will be interesting to verify if, beyond the change in the rite, an adequate theological, spiritual and pastoral mentality has been formed."
Quoting a message sent to the participants in the recent 20th course on the Internal Forum, the letter stated: "These days, the correct formation of believers' consciences is without a doubt one of the pastoral priorities because, unfortunately, as I have reaffirmed on other occasions, to the extent that the sense of sin is lost, feelings of guilt increase which people seek to eliminate by recourse to inadequate palliative remedies. The many invaluable spiritual and pastoral tools that contribute to the formation of consciences should be increasingly developed. [...]
"Like all the sacraments, the sacrament of Penance too requires catechesis beforehand and a mystagogical catechesis for a deeper knowledge of the sacrament: 'per ritus et preces.' … Catechesis should be combined with a wise use of preaching, which has had different forms in the Church's history according to the mentality and pastoral needs of the faithful."
Benedict XVI's letter continued: "Along with an adequate formation of the moral conscience, maturity of life and celebration of the sacrament, it is necessary to foster in the faithful the experience of spiritual support."
"Wise and holy 'spiritual teachers'" are needed, it added, urging priests to keep "ever alive within them the knowledge that they must be worthy 'ministers' of divine mercy and responsible educators of consciences."
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-26682?l=english