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Shrines special places to encounter God's grace: pope

Pope Francis meets with shrine rectors and those assisting them at the Vatican for their Second International Meeting

Pope Francis meeting with participants at the 2nd International Meeting for Shrine Rectors and Workers

Pope Francis meeting with participants at the 2nd International Meeting for Shrine Rectors and Workers. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: November 14, 2023 05:40 AM GMT

Updated: November 14, 2023 05:45 AM GMT

Catholic shrines must be extra careful in selecting priests to hear confessions because the faithful visiting a shrine in search of God's mercy must always be able to find it, Pope Francis said.

"Always forgive as the Father forgives. Forgive," the pope told an international meeting of rectors and others responsible for religious life at Catholic shrines around the world.

Make sure "that it does not happen that those who come to the confessional attracted by the Father's mercy encounter obstacles to experiencing true and full reconciliation," the pope said Nov. 11. "The sacrament of reconciliation is to forgive, always."

Especially at shrines, "God's mercy demands to be expressed in a superabundant way," the pope said. "This is how the faithful rightly perceive them: as special places in which to encounter God's grace."

Pope Francis also encouraged the rectors to make special efforts to promote eucharistic adoration and to ensure the shrines have a dignified and quiet place for pilgrims to be alone with Jesus in the Eucharist.

"We have lost something of the sense of adoration," the pope said. "We must regain it."

"Adoration is not a departure from life; rather it is the space that gives meaning to everything," a place where one can contemplate and experience the gift of God's love and draw strength "to be able to bear witness to it in fraternal charity," he said.

The staff at shrines also must remember that many of the people who visit them are seeking consolation, the pope said.

"How many people go because they bear in their spirit and body a weight, a suffering, a worry," he said. "The sickness of a loved one, the loss of a family member; so many situations in life are often the cause of loneliness and sadness, which are laid on the altar and await a response."

Offering consolation, he said, is not primarily a matter of finding the right words to say but demonstrating "a compassionate and tender closeness that understands pain and suffering."

Pope Francis asked the rectors to pay particular attention to the liturgy and other communal prayers offered at the shrines since people go there especially to pray.

The faith of the people, he said, is written in the history of Catholic shrines and "must be kept alive and nurtured with prayer, primarily the rosary, which helps to pray through meditation on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary."

"To enter spiritually into those mysteries, to feel one is a living part of what constitutes our history of salvation, is a sweet commitment that brings the flavor of the Gospel to everyday life," Pope Francis said.

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Shrines are holy places that promote togetherness and on-going-ness among pilgrims on journey.

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