Column- Father Paul Dowling

Father Paul Dowling.
Father Paul Dowling.

It was a great privilege to be in the presence of Pope Francis in Rome, knowing that I was part of the implementation of new initiative which is so close to his heart.

The pope spoke with clarity and a strong commitment that this was something that he had been mulling over for a long time and a defining event (the Jubilee of Mercy) of his Pontificate.

St Mary's Church, Market Weighton.

St Mary's Church, Market Weighton.

I think the initiative of commissioning Missionaries of Mercy reflects the kind of Church that he wants and illustrates many of his sayings during his Pontificate.

He says: “We (as priests) are called to be the living expression of the Church which as mother welcomes whomsoever approaches her, conscious that through the Church one is joined to Christ. Entering the confessional, let us always remember that it is Christ who welcomes, it is Christ who listens, it is Christ who forgives, it is Christ who grants peace.

“We are his ministers; and we are always the first to be in need of being forgiven by him.”

Everyone experiences emotions at the time of seeking a Sacramental Confession.

These feelings should not dissuade us from receiving the Sacrament. If we feel any discomfort then we can have the reassurance that it is short-lived as we will soon be receiving the forgiveness of Him who loves us.

To prevent a priest from becoming judgmental or giving off an aura of superiority, the Holy Father says: “Every missionary is called to remember his own existence as a sinner and to humbly act as a “channel” of God’s mercy. Human relationships help us to keep us loving and humble and therefore reflect the likeness of God towards each one of us.

Pope Francis is wanting to reach out to anyone who feels to be on the margins of the Church or someone who, whilst practising their faith, has not received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while.