Category: Archive

Editorial Words of repentance

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Pope John Paul II has ushered the Catholic church into the third millennium with a dramatic and historic act of repentance. During his homily last Sunday at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the pope asked God’s forgiveness for the sins of Catholics committed against women, the poor, immigrants, indigenous people, the unborn, and people of other faiths, chief among them Jews. "We cannot not recognize the betrayal of the Gospel committed by some of our brothers, especially in the second millennium," the pope said.

The pope’s words were part of what he called a "purification of memory," an attempt to, as it were, wipe clean the church’s moral slate as it embarks on a new evangelization during the new millennium.

Never before has a pope issued what amounts to a sweeping acknowledgment of the historical sins carried out by Catholics in the name of the church. And though many Catholics will prefer to see the pope’s statement as a confession of the sins of the flock, it will be correctly seen by those outside the Catholic faith as an apology by the church for the actions of the church. That is an important distinction and one that must be acknowledged if the church is to move confidently and credibly toward reconciliation with other faiths.

The pope’s homily Sunday was, in fact, a long time coming. As early as 1994 he had raised the issue of public repentance. But he was opposed within the government of the church by those who feared such a statement would show weakness and thus undermine the credibility of the institution. In fact, reaction since Sunday has revealed the opposite to be true. By acknowledging, in effect, that it has offended and asking forgiveness for those transgressions, the church has shown that it has nothing to fear and everything to gain from the truth.

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