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8 Adar II 5760 - March 15, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Pope Asks for Forgiveness for Sins of the Children of the Church

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The pope issued a broad apology Sunday for sins committed by the church throughout the ages, including those against the Jews. But the pope did not mention any specifics, including the Holocaust.

A week before the pope's speech, the Vatican issued a document, "Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Mistakes of the Past," that lists several major areas where it said the church had failed, including the Inquisition, forced conversion and treatment of Jews.

The prayer for forgiveness for sins against Jews, which was read by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, said in part: "Let us pray that, in recalling the sufferings endured by the people of Israel throughout history, Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the covenant . . ."

The pope then added in his own words: "We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours [the Jews] to suffer, and asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant."

"In certain periods of history, Christians have at times given in to intolerance and have not been faithful to the great commandment of love, sullying in this way the face of the church.

"We ask forgiveness for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some Christians used in the service of the truth, and for the behavior of diffidence and hostility sometimes used toward followers of other religions," the pope said in his homily before the prayers.

The words "violence in the service of truth" are a much used reference to the treatment of heretics during the Inquisition, the Crusades, and forced conversions of native peoples.

Some observers said that the statement had special significance since it was uttered as part of the religious services and not as part of a diplomatic agreement or function. The statements were emphasized by the fact that seven cardinals and bishops enumerated the sins and the pope responded. The public act of repentance was unprecedented in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, said he hopes the pope will use his upcoming visit to Israel as an opportunity to address, more specifically, the church's wrongdoing during World War II. Chief Rabbi Lau said that although the final solution was a Nazi plan not of the Church, still the pope at the time, Pius XII, "did nothing to condemn or protest it."

British Jews have called on the Vatican to open its Holocaust records after the pope's apology. Lord Greville Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said a speech by the pope asking for forgiveness for the sins of the Church represented a "worthy" sentiment which now had to be turned into action.

"I hope that in the spirit of his address, he will now ensure that the Vatican and its monasteries now open up their archives to research on Hitler era records," Janner said.

"Until now, the Vatican has been the only authority on earth to refuse to do so. I hope that this unhappy trail will now lead to honorable transparency."

The pope's lead was followed by Catholic leaders in the U.S. Church leaders in Boston, Milwaukee, Santa Fe, Los Angeles and Denver also offered apologies.

Many observers said that the act will take quite a bit of time to sink in, and how it affects the millions of Catholics around the world is the key to discovering its true meaning.

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