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Religious freedom rally is Feb. 17 in Topeka

Topeka — The Kansas Catholic Conference and other organizations concerned about religious freedom will be hosting a Rally for Religious Freedom from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, on the second floor of the Kansas State Capitol.

The rally, open to people of all faiths, will feature Ryan Anderson, a researcher and writer from the Heritage Foundation who lately has spoken frequently on television news shows on the topic of same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Gov. Sam Brownback also is scheduled to speak.

The rally is a response not only to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage but recent Kansas legislative debate on free speech and religious freedom.

“We don’t think it should be illegal to run an adoption ministry or a wedding business in accordance with Christian teachings on human sexuality, yet a bill that would make it illegal to decline complicity in a same-sex wedding ceremony or to only place adoptive children where they would have a mom and a dad was given a hearing the first week of the legislative session in Topeka this January,” said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the four Kansas Catholic bishops.

“In recent years, we have seen an increasing number of threats to religious freedom in this country. Whether it’s the Obama administration trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide health plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, or whether it’s Catholic Charities in Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington, D.C., being forced out of the adoption ministry by the government for the ‘crime’ of only placing children where they’ll have a married mom and dad, our First Amendment right to religious freedom is in jeopardy in a way that is really unprecedented in this country,” Schuttloffel said.

He hopes the rally opens Kansas lawmakers’ eyes, but he also wants it to wake up Kansans of faith.

“Americans have just taken religious freedom for granted to such an extent that it is hard for people to believe that it could even be threatened here,” he said.

“But it is very much being threatened. The right to go to church is still safe, but the right to live your faith in your daily life, at home and at work, in public and in private, is at risk,” he added.

Other speakers include:

• Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers, who was prosecuted in Washington state for declining to take part in a same-sex wedding ceremony.

• Hernan Castano, one of the “Houston Five” pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed by the city of Houston.

• Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life.

• Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a litigant in a lawsuit against the federal health-care mandate.

At www.kscathconf.org/rally, people are invited to RSVP via Facebook. There also is information on parking.

Lent in this Year of Mercy

Salina — During this Year of Mercy, the season of Lent takes on an even greater sense of redemption.

“There are a lot of people hurting a lot,” said Father Steve Heina, “and they are deeply desiring to do something about that.”

This year, Lent begins Feb. 10 on Ash Wednesday, with Easter Sunday falling on March 27.

The traditional practices of prayer, fasting and alms-giving come together in Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, during which he is encouraging Catholics not just to seek forgiveness for their sins but to find healing in the Church.

To help accomplish that, every diocese has opened Doors of Mercy to help the penitent began his journey. Here, holy doors are designated at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina and the Basilica of St. Fidelis in Victoria. The pope also is offering a plenary indulgence — a remission of temporal punishment due to sin.

Sin can be forgiven, but there must also be healing to return that person to a state of grace, said Father Heina, moderator of the Diocese of Salina’s Office of the New Evangelization.

That healing requires an honest assessment of one’s sinfulness — through the Sacrament of Reconciliation — linked with prayer and acts of mercy.

“I think that’s what people are looking for: some kind of spiritual medicine or therapy, if you will, a regimen that would be of benefit to them and open them to a power for healing that they need that is beyond themselves,” he said.

Father Heina sees the offering of a plenary indulgence as one of the tools the faithful can use to renew their bond with God.

Read more...

Suggestions offered for carrying out Works of Mercy

Salina — Pope Francis says the Year of Mercy is a time to remember how we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us.

And how do we show mercy? Guiding Catholics are the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, a list of 14 “works” based on Jesus’ teachings.

But that list might be a bit daunting, so Father Steve Heina, moderator of the Office of the New Evangelization for the Diocese of Salina, offers some ideas that might make the process a little easier.

With thanks to Bill Scholl, consultant for the Office of Social Justice at the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., for his descriptions of each work of mercy, and The Leaven, the Kansas City Archdiocese’s newspaper, here is a how-to-do-it guide.

Showing mercy is more difficult in today’s world, Father Heina acknowledged.

“Roadblocks exist in helping others,” he said. One can’t simply walk into a prison and offer to help without undergoing training, a background check and a slurry of paperwork. And encountering a person in need on the street might not be the safest thing for an individual to do.

“The hopelessness that Pope Francis sees as so important is evidenced by the difficulty that people in need experience themselves but also the challenges faced by those who reach out. It can be very discouraging,” Father Heina said.

That’s where prayer comes into play.

“Our best human intentions by ourselves are not enough. We need a spiritual supplement to sustain us through the efforts we make to be of service to those in need,” he said.

Father Heina recommends a three-step process in approaching the Works of Mercy.

It begins by giving thanks. Think about how, when and where you have been on the receiving end of a Work of Mercy and give thanks.

Then decide what you would do in turn. The list below provides some common-sense approaches.

Finally, reflect on what God has said or shown you and what you want or need to say to God.

Father Heina said he and a group of the faithful at his parishes — St. Bernard in Ellsworth and St. Ignatius Loyola in Kanopolis — came up with monthly goals.

But with seven Corporal Works of Mercy and seven Spiritual Works of Mercy — and 12 months in the Year of Mercy, from Dec. 8 through next Nov. 20 — it will mean doubling up a few of the months.

Beginning in January, The Register will feature one or two of the Works of Mercy each month with an explanation of what each one means and some suggestions for carrying them out.

But if you want to plan ahead or reflect on the Works of Mercy during this Advent seasons, here is the entire list:

Read more...

Indulgences available as part of Holy Year of Mercy

The Holy Year traditionally begins with the opening of the Holy Door to represent a renewed opportunity to encounter or grow closer to Jesus, who calls everyone to redemption.

Jesus knocks on everyone’s door; he yearns to accompany and nourish everyone. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” the Book of Revelation quotes him as saying.

But doors are also narrow, the late-Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the former archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica wrote, and people must stoop with humility and “be brought down to size by conversion” in order to be “fit” for eternal life.

That is why passing through a Holy Door is part of a longer process of sacrifice and conversion required for receiving an indulgence granted during a Holy Year.

A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, is offered for pilgrims who also fulfill certain other conditions: reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, visits and prayers for the intention of the pope and performing simple acts such as visiting the sick.

Read more...

Holy door opened at Sacred Heart Cathedral

The Holy Year traditionally begins with the opening of the Holy Door to represent a renewed opportunity to encounter or grow closer to Jesus, who calls everyone to redemption.

Jesus knocks on everyone’s door; he yearns to accompany and nourish everyone. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me,” the Book of Revelation quotes him as saying.

But doors are also narrow, the late-Cardinal Virgilio Noe, the former archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica wrote, and people must stoop with humility and “be brought down to size by conversion” in order to be “fit” for eternal life.

That is why passing through a Holy Door is part of a longer process of sacrifice and conversion required for receiving an indulgence granted during a Holy Year.

A plenary indulgence, the remission of temporal punishment due to sin, is offered for pilgrims who also fulfill certain other conditions: reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, visits and prayers for the intention of the pope and performing simple acts such as visiting the sick.

 

 

 

 

Kansas Bishops' Message on the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees

There is great controversy today over the policy of resettling Syrian refugees in the United States. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have served as a reminder, if any was needed, that terrorism remains a grave threat and that all people of good will should stand in solidarity with one another against such deplorable acts of violence and murder.

While emotions are understandably running high, the plight of our brothers and sisters in Syria must not be ignored. The Syrian people are on a daily basis bearing the brunt of the Syrian civil war, the Assad regime’s ruthless tactics and ISIS’s reign of terror. Christians are being persecuted and even martyred in brutal fashion. Members of other faiths are suffering enormous hardships as well, as ISIS terrorizes anyone who does not share its radical extremist ideology. It is estimated that around 11 million people in Syria and surrounding countries have had to flee their homes, making this a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The 10,000 refugees in question represent a tiny fraction of those who have been displaced.

Our great country has long been a beacon of hope for the oppressed peoples of the world. What a terrible tragedy it would be for humanity if America suddenly became a country that turns away even women and children fleeing the horrors of war and terrorism.

At the same time, it is entirely legitimate, and indeed obligatory, for public officials to make the security of our nation and the safety of Americans a paramount consideration. This is why all of the refugees must undergo a thorough, multi-agency vetting process that takes on average 18 to 24 months. Undoubtedly this process will continue to be examined and improved upon; however, the mere possibility that someone admitted as a refugee could commit an act of terror is not reason enough to cease resettlement of all Syrian refugees. There are other, and perhaps considerably easier, avenues for a determined enemy of the United States to enter the country than to submit to a two-year review by American intelligence, defense and law enforcement agencies. We should not stop helping some of the world’s most desperate people in a vain effort to make America perfectly safe.

We do not in any way wish to deny the seriousness of the threat of terrorism or ISIS’s determination to attack America. Nor do we consider it impossible that someone who wishes America harm could infiltrate the United States through the refugee program. But given the scale of human suffering in Syria and the security measures in place to scrutinize refugees, we believe that resettlement should continue. We cannot allow fear to harden our hearts.

Finally, it is already sadly evident that some are using this issue to attempt to gain political advantage. We the Catholic bishops of Kansas hope and pray that all elected officials, on all sides of this issue, will respect each other’s sincere concerns and act with the common good, and not political opportunism, in mind.

Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City in Kansas

Most Reverend John B. Brungardt, Bishop of Dodge City

Most Reverend Edward J. Weisenburger, Bishop of Salina

Most Reverend Carl A. Kemme, Bishop of Wichita

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  • IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis marked the beginning of the church's Lenten journey by sending off several hundred religious and diocesan priests on their own special path as "missionaries of mercy" in local parishes. "Look upon your servants, Lord, that we are sending as messengers of mercy, salvation and peace. Guide their steps" and sustain them with "the power of your grace," the pope said during a special Ash Wednesday liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica Feb. 10. "May Christ's voice resound in their words and Christ's heart in their gestures," he said. More than 700 of the 1,142 missionaries specially appointed by the pope attended the Mass. Dressed in white vestments and purple stoles, the men received the pope's mandate to preach about God's mercy and special authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See. Their mission was echoed in the day's second reading from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians, in which he proclaims, "We are ambassadors for Christ" with God working and speaking through them, imploring people to "be reconciled with God." In his homily before commissioning the priests at the end of Mass, the pope said their mandate is to be "signs and instruments of God's pardon." "Dear brothers, may you be able to help open the doors of people's hearts" as well as bless, heal and raise them up with a father's love, he said. God knows the sins, weakness, wounds and fatigue people experience in their lives and "he knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that we need to feel loved in order to carry out the good," he said. People cannot keep going on their own, and that is why the apostle Paul doesn't urge people to "do something, but to let themselves be reconciled by God, to allow him to forgive us," he said. In fact, the first step on the road of a Christian life is recognizing the need for divine mercy and to pass through that "open door which is Christ," who offers everyone a new and joyful life. The problem, the pope said, is there may be many barriers that keep people from ever approaching or opening that door. People may be so hardened by sin or pride that "they bolt the lock on the soul," justifying their errors or believing they are "no worse than others," thereby remaining "prisoners of evil." Another obstacle people face is being ashamed "to open the secret door of the heart." While shame is a good sign since "it shows that we want to detach ourselves from evil," it must never turn into "dread or fear." The third danger is when people walk away from Christ, becoming distant or isolated by holing themselves up with their own suffering, wallowing endlessly in negative thoughts and sinking into the darkest recesses of the soul, he said. "Let's listen to Jesus, who says to those who are weary and burdened, 'Come to me,'" since "only the Lord's grace liberates us" and offers peace and rest, the pope said. He said the Lord asks people to close the distance that has grown and "return to me with your whole heart." The Lenten journey invites people to "be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines that heal (people) from sin" -- prayer, fasting and almsgiving. "May Lent be a time of a healthy 'pruning' back of falsehood, worldliness, indifference; of no longer thinking that everything is fine as long as I am doing well; of understanding that what matters isn't acceptance, seeking success or approval, but the cleansing of one's heart and life." The pope broke with the tradition of walking from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina in order to commission the missionaries of mercy from St. Peter's Basilica. Before the main altar were the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, two Capuchins popular as miracle workers and known particularly for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions. Pope Francis had asked the Capuchins to bring the relics of the two saints to Rome for the Year of Mercy, particularly the celebration of Ash Wednesday and the commissioning of the official missionaries of mercy as an encouragement and inspiration to be generous with God's love. The pope received ashes on the top of his head from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's, and distributed ashes to a number of cardinals and a small group of laypeople and religious.  - - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Pope Francis expressed his hopes that Iraq and other war-torn countries would have leaders strong enough to bring once-divided peoples together. "I wish for Iraqis and for all of us -- for the whole world -- leaders like this," the pope said Feb. 10 as he gave the Iraqi leader a medallion featuring an olive tree -- a sign of peace -- that holds together a split rock. "Inshallah, inshallah," al-Abadi replied, using the Arabic word for "God willing." In addition to meeting Pope Francis, the prime minister held private talks with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State. With Islamic State militants still operating in large areas of Iraq and with the people still recovering from war, the discussions included "the life of the church in the country" and "the situation of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities with particular reference to the importance of their presence and the need to protect their rights," the Vatican said in a statement. "Emphasis was placed on the role of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting tolerance and peace," the statement said. "In this context, mention was made of the importance of the reconciliation process between the various social sectors within the country, and the national humanitarian and regional situations."- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Max Rossi, ReutersBy Cindy WoodenVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A jubilee year that does not open people's wallets to share what they have with others is not a true jubilee, Pope Francis said. "This pope isn't inventing that," he insisted. "It's in the Bible." At his weekly general audience Feb. 10 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis spoke about the description of a jubilee year in the Book of Leviticus. The religious feast also had serious social implications, he said, because it proclaimed a forgiveness of debts, the freedom of indentured servants and special generosity toward the poor and the stranger. "It was a kind of 'general amnesty,' which permitted everyone to return to their original situation with the cancellation of every debt, the restitution of land and the possibility of enjoying once again the freedom proper to members of the people of God," he said. For God's chosen people, who are called to holiness, the pope said, the jubilee prescriptions help "to combat poverty and inequality, guaranteeing a dignified life for all and a fair distribution of the land on which to live and draw sustenance." During the Catholic Church's jubilee year, each Christian should think about what they have, he said, and "if they have too many things," they should "give some to someone who has nothing; 10 percent or 50 percent. The Holy Spirit will inspire you." Pope Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square that "a jubilee is for conversion so that our hearts become bigger, more generous, more (like) a child of God, with more love." "I'll tell you something," he said, "if this jubilee doesn't reach our pockets, it's not a real jubilee. Do you understand? This is in the Bible, eh, this pope isn't inventing that. It's in the Bible." "The biblical message is very clear: courageously open yourselves to sharing; this is mercy," the pope said. "If we want mercy from God, let us begin by being merciful ourselves." A biblical jubilee is about sharing and solidarity, Pope Francis said. "The biblical jubilee was a 'jubilee of mercy' because it was lived with a sincere search of the good of one's needy brothers and sisters." The laws governing God's people in the Bible, he said, also had other means for encouraging people to help others experience God's mercy. One of those things was the command to tithe a tenth of one's earnings to the temple and to widows and orphans or to give a portion of the first fruits of one's harvest. In addition, he said, the Bible had harsh words for those who charged high interest rates when loaning to the poor. In many countries, he added, usury is still a huge problem and families lose everything and end up on the streets. "Please, let us pray that in this jubilee the Lord would remove from all our hearts this desire to have more," he said.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/Maxim Shemetov, ReutersBy Mark PattisonWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The planned Feb. 12 meeting in Cuba between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church will be a historic event, those involved in ecumenical relations agree, but they contend the proof of the pudding will lie in the content of the joint statement the two church leaders are expected to sign at the end of their meeting. No pontiff has ever met a reigning Russian Orthodox patriarch since the Great Schism of 1054, noted Paulist Father Ronald Roberson, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. That in itself, he said, makes the visit historic in nature. The trips made to Rome by Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, director of foreign relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, and to Moscow by Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, laying the groundwork for the meeting likely also included items to be included in the joint statement, Father Roberson told Catholic News Service Feb. 7. He said there would likely be language on the Middle East, where Christians of all stripes have fled the many war zones in a situation some Christian leaders have labeled a genocide. It also would probably deal with the issue of proselytism, long a sore spot for the Orthodox, which sees virtually any activity by members of any other Christian faith, including Catholics, as proselytism -- the direct urging to join a new faith even if it means leaving your old faith -- although Catholics and others consider that evangelization. Although the Orthodox churches retain great autonomy in their respective regions, with their spiritual home in "Constantinople" -- modern-day Istanbul -- half of all Orthodox are Russian Orthodox, making any undertaking by them significant. Russian Orthodox also is the official church of Russia, with all other faiths considered sects requiring government permission to go about their business. Among the 22 Eastern churches united with Rome -- virtually all of which retain the liturgical forms of their Orthodox counterparts -- the largest among them is the Ukrainian Catholic Church. There has long been enmity between Ukraine and Russia in both the religious and political realms. Many Ukrainians still seethe at what they call a forced famine by Soviet Russia in the 1930s. The two nations have long bickered over the supply and cost of natural gas from Russia for winter heating in Ukraine. The current fighting between Ukraine and Russia over a would-be separatist Ukrainian republic of Donetsk in the south of the country, and Russia's annexation of Crimea two years ago, are just the latest tensions. "I do not expect that the meeting of Pope Francis with Patriarch Kirill, planned for February 12, will bring any particular changes," said a statement from Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, issued Feb. 5, the date the meeting was announced. "The meeting cannot be an end in itself, but must rather be an instrument, a necessary means for honest and open dialogue," the major archbishop added. "I am, therefore, pleased, that we are no longer considered an obstacle and aren't being used to justify one's unwillingness to engage in such dialogue." "This meeting exemplifies why our pope has such faith in the power of dialogue," said a Feb. 5 blog posting by Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He quoted Pope Francis from his meeting with the U.S. bishops in September: "Dialogue is our method. The path ahead, then, is dialogue among yourselves, dialogue in your presbyterates, dialogue with lay persons, dialogue with families, dialogue with society. I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly." The meeting, two years in the planning, comes months before a Great Holy Council, a worldwide convocation of Orthodox leaders to be held in Crete that itself had been in the works for 40 years, according to Father Roberson. Bishop Rozanski noted it also "comes on the heels of the observance of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25. With the announcement of this meeting, we feel renewed hope that those prayers are already bearing fruit." Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, Catholic co-chair of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation, told CNS he was sensitive to "the sort of delicacies that are involved here. Besides a theological (sensitivity), there's a whole geopolitical reality at work here, too." The archbishop said, "I would like to hear how from the Russian side, the 'third Rome,' speaks to the 'first Rome,'" noting the ecclesial progression from Rome to Constantinople after the schism, to Moscow given its current standing in the Orthodox world. "It would be interesting to hear just what the common ground Patriarch Kirill has found with the bishop of Rome," Archbishop Tobin added.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

  • IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore RomanoBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- On the eve of sending off "missionaries of mercy" to all corners of the globe, Pope Francis told his specially appointed men that the reassuring strength of God's love -- not the "bludgeon of judgment" -- will bring the "lost sheep" back to the fold. "Being a missionary of mercy is a responsibility that is entrusted to you because it asks you to be a firsthand witness of God's closeness and his way of loving, not our way, which is always limited and sometimes contradictory," he said Feb. 9. Meeting with hundreds of missionaries who came to Rome to receive in person their special papal mandate on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis said he wanted to highlight the unique aspects of their new ministry so they would carry it out properly and be "a real help" to the people they encounter. The pope designated 1,142 religious and diocesan priests from all over the world to preach and teach about God's mercy and serve especially as confessors during the Year of Mercy, which ends Nov. 20. The men were to receive their special mandate during a ceremony in St. Peter's Basilica Feb. 10. He told the missionaries that they need to recognize that people's desire for forgiveness might be obscured by their inability or embarrassment to talk about their sins. "It's not easy to go before another person, knowing he represents God, and confess one's sins," he said. Confessors should be respectful and encouraging, he said, because the penitents can easily feel exposed and vulnerable "with their weakness and limitations, with the shame of being a sinner." "Do not forget, there isn't a sin before you, but a repentant sinner," a person who wants to be listened to, forgiven, and brought home again, he told them. With the little strength they have on their own, sinners want to do everything to be a child of God again, therefore, do not be a judge "with a sense of superiority, as if we were immune from sin," or be too invasive with inappropriate or prying questions, the pope said. Help the sinner -- who may be feeling the same shame of nakedness Adam and Eve felt in the Garden of Eden when they recognized the evil they had done -- by "covering the sinner with the blanket of mercy, so they will no longer be embarrassed and can regain the joy of their filial dignity," he said. He said he wants the missionaries to be a living expression of "the church who, like a mother, welcomes anyone who approaches her," knowing that through her they will become one with Christ. In the confessional, the pope said, they must remember that it is Christ who welcomes, listens, forgives and grants peace. "We are his ministers and we always need to be forgiven by him first," he said.The pope said whatever sin a priest hears, he must always remember his own sinful nature and be a humble channel of God's mercy. He said he still feels the joyful, life-changing moment he experienced as a teenager Sept. 21, 1953, after he went to confession. Speaking off the cuff, he said, "I don't remember what the priest said" because what he said was not as important as his smile and the overwhelming sense of God's presence. "It was like being received by a father," he said.- - -Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.