VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has kneeled before a priest and confessed his sins in a St. Peter's Basilica ceremony he hopes will inspire others to seek forgiveness.

Traditionally, popes have heard confessions of some faithful in the basilica on Good Friday morning. But Francis did so three weeks early. And he surprised many in the packed church Friday by confessing his own sins with his back to cameras. At one point, the priest hearing his confession appeared to chuckle. Francis, solemn-faced, then rose and started hearing confessions himself.

In his homily, Francis tweaked some religious commandments to stress the positive. Building on "don't' steal," Francis suggested, "share what you have with others," especially the needy, and when trying to "not yield to anger," he advised, be "magnanimous and ready to forgive."