DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     September 2, 1999     vol. 10, no. 166

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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        VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- At his weekly public audience on Wednesday, September 1, Pope John Paul I concentrated on the topic of reconciliation, and the need for the Church to ask pardon for the sins of her members.

        This request for pardon, the Holy Father told a crowd of 8,000 people at the Vatican's Paul VI auditorium, is in line with the directives of the Second Vatican Council. He also repeated his own observation that the quest for reconciliation should be a major theme of the Jubilee Year celebration.

        Among the offenses that have been committed in the name of the Church, the Pope spoke first about "the sad reality of division among Christians." Noting that the responsibility for past schisms must be broadly shared, he insisted that the result-- the continuing divisions among the Christian faithful-- constitute "a scandal in the eyes of the world."

        Next the Pontiff spoke about the historic "use of methods of intolerance, and even of violence, in the service of the truth." Even if the people who used those methods were motivated by the desire to strengthen the Christian faith, he said, "it was certainly not in line with the Gospel to think that truth can be imposed by force."

        Finally, the Pope spoke of "the lack of discernment among some Christians" when they were faced with "situations in which fundamental human rights were being violated." Some of the offense in that category, he said, could include acts of omission or weakness, and indecisive or inappropriate responses to injustice.

        The proper recognition of such historical failings, the Pope continued, requires Christians today to see the past in the proper context. The goal of such historical study, he said, is to construct a complete and accurate picture of the past, taking into account the cultural realities of the times in which certain actions occurred. Only when that study is complete, he said, can we assign moral responsibility to the proper individuals. He cautioned strongly against "generalized sentences of absolution of condemnation with respect to certain historical eras," as well as judgments based on "confessional or ideological prejudices."

        Pope John Paul insisted that a properly penitential attitude must not be mistaken for "false humility" or for abandonment of the "two- millennium history, which is certainly rich in merits in the works of charity, culture, and holiness." Rather, he said, Christians should take a lesson from history, so that they might offer "a witness that is even more pure," at a time when the Church turns "a new page in her history."

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September 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 166


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