Catholic News ServiceA clergyman hears confession from Pope Francis during a penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 28. Pope Francis surprised his liturgical adviser by going to confession during the service.
                                                                                                            Catholic News Service
A clergyman hears confession from Pope Francis during a penitential liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 28. Pope Francis surprised his liturgical adviser by going to confession during the service.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis surprised people Friday when he knelt in front of worshippers in St. Peter’s Basilica and confessed his sins to a priest.

The pope made the move after preaching about the importance of confession.

Typically, the pope goes to confession in private.

“Who can say he is not a sinner? Nobody. We all are,” the pope told the faithful in the packed basilica, capacity 25,000.

He was supposed to join 60 priests in hearing the sins of the faithful in confessionals or in chairs set up against the walls.

But he went to a different confessional and knelt before a priest to tell his own sins. After that, the pope did hear confessions.

The pope, dressed in a simple white alb and purple stole, spent about three minutes kneeling before the priest’s open confessional and receiving absolution. The priest also clasped the pope’s hands and kissed his simple silver ring.

Pope Francis then went to another confessional and spent about 40 minutes hearing confessions.

In his homily, the pope said following God’s call to conversion is not supposed to happen only during Lent, but is a lifetime commitment. He also spoke about two key characteristics of Christian life: putting on a “new self, created in God’s way” and living in and sharing God’s love.

Renewal in Christ comes with baptism, which frees people from sin and welcomes them as children of God and members of Christ and his church, he said.

“This new life lets us see the world with different eyes without being distracted anymore by the things that don’t matter and that can’t last for long,” he said.

Shedding sinful behaviors and focusing on the essential become a daily commitment so that a life “deformed by sin” can become a life “illuminated by grace” from God.

When hearts are renewed and “created in God’s way,” good behavior follows, he said.