Pope Francis passes a crucifix as he walks down steps during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 4. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic New Service

Pope Francis passes a crucifix as he walks down steps during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 4, 2013. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

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ROME (RNS) As part of Pope Francis’ pastoral reforms, all 44 senior members of the Roman Curia, or governing body, must take turns hearing confession at a church near the Vatican.

There is even speculation that Francis himself could hear confessions at the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia, just outside the Vatican walls, where his bishops and cardinals have been directed to perform the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

“I think it’s likely the pope will discreetly hear confessions at some point,” said Giacomo Galeazzi, a veteran Vatican watcher from Italy’s La Stampa newspaper. “The pope has long been an advocate of the pastoral aspects of the ministry and now the Curia will as well.”

Galeazzi and others said the change, announced Sunday (Dec. 15), is part of a wider reform of the Vatican bureaucracy under Francis that includes the appointment of Archbishop Pietro Parolin as secretary of state. The two share a similar approach with an emphasis on humility.

The Curia, which has a powerful and central governing power at the Vatican, is seeing its role change.

“The pope doesn’t want bureaucrats,” Galeazzi said. “He wants pastors.”

The selection of the Church of the Santo Spirito in Sassia as the location for the confessions is not a coincidence: The church is dedicated to the Divine Mercy devotion of Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who was named a saint in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

The centerpiece of the devotion, according to Robert Moynihan, founder of Inside the Vatican Magazine, is the belief that God’s mercy and love are always available for human beings even if they are not deserving of that love.



  1. Well done Pope Francis,… the Roman Curia needs to remember that even though they are part of the central governing body of the Church they are also priests and pastors to the people of God and so their main obligation should be the salvation of souls.

    Getting the members of the Curia back to hearing Confessions will be a good lesson in humility and service, as well as it will give them the opportunity to serve Christ’s Church in a pastoral capacity (hopefully reminding them of why they became priests in the first place).

    The Roman Curia need to remember that they are not earthly politicians but priests.
    The power struggles within the Roman Curia and the scandals, power ambitions and so on have always existed within the Curia, and they will probably continue but hopefully this move by Pope Francis will help some of these men realize that one day they’ll too will have to account to God for the their souls as well as the souls of others.

  2. Daniel Berry, NYC

    Well, waddaya’ know: the pope wants the power-boys in the Vatican bureaucracy to do something that actual Christian priests do for a change.

    That’s not going to fly very well.

    No wonder he’s taking his meals in common with the rest of the Vatican staff.

  3. Pontifex Bergolio has hit the ball out of the park with the people of the world once more. His stock rises exponentially. The Scarlet 44 are being forced to be pastors once again. How revolutionary!!!

    Get the old dears out of their cappa magnas and lace nighties and into sweat shirts and jeans. They’ve got real work to do.

    All that’s left is to introduce Bingo and St. Patrick’s Day card parties to complete their return to being pastors and not paper shufflers. The ultramontanist traditionalists worry about the pope’s attachment to tradition. IThey have nothing to fear. If they only realized how this Argentinian Jesuit retreat master is a traditionalist to the very fiber of his being.

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