A specially-recruited group of priests have last-minute instructions from Pope Francis before fanning out through the world to show a more merciful face of the Catholic Church to sinners.

About 700 priests from around the globe, many of them using headphones for translations, heard Francis on Tuesday stress the welcoming image he wants faithful to have of the church and how priests should act when hearing confessions. The pope said many people abandon confession because priests scolded them or pried for embarrassing details.

Francis says confessors shouldn't judge "with a sense of superiority" but welcome penitents with open arms.

One priest heads to the far Canadian north; another will use a camper to reach faithful in remote Australian countryside.

The confessor corps officially begins its mission on Ash Wednesday.