During his homily at the Penitential Liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father told the faithful there's only one we need to forgive our sins: God, who will pardon our every sin if we turn to Him.
"To be touched with tenderness from His hand and shaped by His grace allows us, therefore, to approach the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty of being received by him in the name of God, and understood in spite of our miseries."
"Coming out of the confessional, we will feel its strength that restores life and returns us to enthusiasm of faith.We have one real confessor, and He defends us always!"
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, he said, allows the faithful to draw near to God and be certain of his forgiveness. "He really is rich in mercy," he stressed. "He extends it abundantly to those who turn to Him with a sincere heart."
Recalling St. Paul's words, the Pope said the Apostle reminds us, "God never ceases to show the richness of his mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is 'God's gift.' It is 'His work.'"
Recalling how Jesus washed away the sins of the sinful woman in today's Gospel, the Pope said despite her being a public sinner, she was forgiven.
"He forgives all! When God forgives, He forgets," the Pontiff said. "It’s a great gift."
Francis said this woman really met the Lord. "For her," he pointed out, "there will be no judgment except that which comes from God, and this is the judgment of mercy."
"The call of Jesus pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person," he said. "We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable."
"No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and no one refuses," he said. "No one can be excluded from the mercy of God."
The larger and greater the sin, the Holy Father stressed, the larger and greater the love that the Church expresses to those who turn to it, seeking conversion.
"He is never scared of our sins!"
The Holy Father reminded those gathered of the prodigal son and how the father welcomes his son. "He will hug you with great love. Don’t be afraid!"
Pope Francis also announced that starting December 8, the Immaculate Conception, and ending Nov. 20, 2016, there will be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
"I am convinced that the whole Church, because we all are sinners, will find in this Jubilee joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time."
The Holy Father concluded, reminding those gathered how God always forgives all, and how we are to "walk with open hearts."