POPE JOHN PAUL BEGS FORGIVENESS FOR SINS OF
CHURCH OVER 2,000 YEARS
By ALESSANDRA STANLEYMARCH 13, 2000
Saying ''we humbly ask forgiveness,'' John Paul II today delivered the most sweeping papal apology ever, repenting for the errors of his church
over the last 2,000 years.''We cannot not recognize the betrayal of the Gospel committed by some of our brothers, especially in the second millennium,''
the pope, dressed in purple robes for Lent, said in his homily. ''Recognizing the deviations of the past serves to reawaken our consciences to the
compromises of the present.''
The public act of repentance, solemnly woven into the liturgy of Sunday Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica, was an unprecedented moment
in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, one that the ailing 79-year-old pope pushed forward over the doubts of even many of his own
cardinals and bishops. He has said repeatedly that the new evangelization he is calling for in the third millennium can take place only
after what he has described as a church-wide ''purification of memory.'' To underline the apology's religious significance, seven cardinals
and bishops stood before the pope and cited some of the key Catholic lapses, past and present, including religious intolerance and i
njustice toward Jews, women, indigenous peoples, immigrants, the poor and the unborn. The pope also mentioned the persecution of
Catholics by other faiths. ''As we ask forgiveness for our sins, we also forgive the sins committed by others against us,'' he said.
At the beginning of his pontificate, John Paul's boldest gestures were on the political front, confronting Communism in the
Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Latin America and also challenging human rights violations and the economic injustices of capitalism.
But the apology, issued in the twilight of his papacy, is theologically more daring.
His effort to cleanse his church's conscience for the new millennium has already drawn criticism, but it is almost certain to mark his
legacy deeply. ''The apology does not just apply to individuals, but the church as a whole, and that is very important,''
the Rev. Lorenzo Albacete, who teaches theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. ''
Because it reflects this pope's desire to reconcile with other Christians and other religions, people are tempted to view it as a
tactic, but its immense spiritual importance to this pope lies in the fact that it did not come within a diplomatic or theological
agreement, but in the liturgy of the Mass during Lent and the Holy Year.''
Jesus Said if you brother sins against you 7 X 70 times forgive him