Shoppers in Edinburgh are being encouraged to take time out for confession this Christmas.

Record numbers of people have visited ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’ so far, the centrepiece being the festive market in Prince Street Gardens.

Now the Archdiocese is asking visiting Catholics to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

Archbishop Leo Cushley said: “We spend a lot of time preparing for Christmas.

“Many people across the Archdiocese visit the city to buy gifts and experience the market.

“As Catholics, one of the best things we can do is prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord.

“A trip to confession is a lovely way to do that, so we are able to welcome the Lord with a clear conscience and a pure heart when the time comes.”

Figures show that more than 500,000 visitors visited Edinburgh’s Christmas in the first nine days of the event. That number is up 13 per cent on the same period last year.

St Mary’s Cathedral is ideally placed for shoppers, being based on Broughton Street at the top of Leith Walk, next to John Lewis.

The cathedral's website states: "If you are nervous about coming to confession either because of what you have on your conscience, or because it has been a long time since your last confession, have no fear; what awaits you in the confessional is the joy and peace of God’s loving mercy and the priest will gently help to discover that."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese said: "If you haven’t been to confession for a while, don’t worry. Simply let the priest know and he will guide you. As Pope Francis says, in the confessional we don’t meet a severe judge, but the merciful Father.”

Confession at St Mary’s Cathedral is available weekdays after 12:45pm Mass and between 5:00-6:00pm. On Saturday it is available 10:30am-to midday and from 5:00pm to 5:45pm. Confessions are heard in Polish Monday to Friday from 5:00pm until 6:00pm and on Saturdays from 8:00am until 9:00am.