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Sunday March 12 2:56 PM ET

Pope asks forgiveness for sins by Catholics through the ages

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul asked God's forgiveness on Sunday for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women and minorities.

It was an unprecedented moment in the history of the church and a personal landmark for a frail, ailing pope who has said he would cleanse and reinvigorate Catholicism for its third millennium.

"We forgive and we ask forgiveness," he said at several points during the day of pardon mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

The church burned heretics at the stake during the Inquisition. Armies of the faithful slaughtered Muslims during the Crusades. And during the Holocaust, some Catholics stood silent in the face of Nazi genocide.

The pontiff did not specifically mention such infamous wrongs during the service. Few specific groups were mentioned and no names were given.

Still, the references were clear, both in John Paul's words and those of the five Vatican cardinals and two bishops who confessed sins on behalf of the church.

Edward Cardinal Cassidy recalled the "sufferings of the people of Israel" and asked divine pardon for "the sins committed by a not a few (Catholics) against the people of the covenant."

After a moment of silent prayer, the Pope responded: "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."

Several Jewish leaders praised his words, but said they expected more during the Pope's March 20-26 visit to the Holy Land. During his trip the pontiff will visit Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.

The director of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, called Sunday's day of pardon both "significant" and "historic."

But "he has to pay tribute and commemorate the remembrance of the Holocaust, and I know that he is going to address" it, Shalev said in Jerusalem.

Israel's chief rabbi, Meir Lau, also said he expects more and described himself as "deeply frustrated" by John Paul's failure to mention the Holocaust by name.

"I hope deeply that the pope of Sunday whom I appreciate very much for his doings and for his condemning anti-Semitism will complete the asking of forgiveness next week in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem," Lau said.

The 79-year-old Pope was dressed Sunday in heavy purple robes, the colour of penitence. He leaned on his silver staff, his voice clear but his hands trembling.

At the end of the confessions, he embraced a large crucifix on the altar for the special mass, imploring God's forgiveness.

"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other religions," John Paul said in his homily.

The cardinals and bishops, also wearing purple, cited "contempt for (other) cultures and religious traditions," and the treatment of women, "who are all too often humiliated and marginalized."

It fell to the head of the Inquisition's modern-day successor, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, to confess "sins committed in the service of the truth."

"Even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel," he confessed. "Have mercy on your sinful children," the Pope responded.

John Paul described his actions as an attempt to "purify memory" of a sad history of hate, rivalry, intolerance and omission. The special mass was a highlight of his campaign for a collective examination of conscience at the dawn of the new millennium.

One of the few groups mentioned by name at Sunday's mass was the Gypsies, also known as Roma, in a confession of hatred toward the weakest members of society. Lapses by Catholics regarding abortion, mistreatment of children and "those who abuse the promise of biotechnology" were also mentioned.

Catholic leaders around the world have offered their own pleas for pardon for various lapses. Bishops in Europe have acknowledged that not enough was done to save Jews during the Second World War.

-- Chaplain Perilous (@ .), March 12, 2000


Chaplain Parlous,

You gotta problem problem with Catholics? You tella me any religion that has been Politically Correct for 2000 years? You tella me any world-view that has been PC for 2000 years? Watta religion you be a chaplain in, huh? The "Churh of What's Happening Now"? I gonna hava my goombah Vito straighten you out.

-- (, March 12, 2000.

Watch out, someone will accuse you of Catholic bashing, unless your name is Patrick Murphy.

The Apology of John Paul II

By John Patrick Michael Murphy (2/26/00)

In a bit more than a fortnight Pope John Paul II will make a request for forgiveness for the conduct of his church over the centuries. The infirm pontiff has prepared a list of the murders, tortures and horrors the papacy has caused to humanity. It reportedly takes 50 pages to lay it all out--things like the papal pogroms against the Jews, the crusades against Islam, and the Inquisitions that went on for centuries. Will 50 pages be enough?

Not if he tells it all. He knows his church historically engaged in political assassinations and other monkeyshines to impose the will of the Vatican upon the civil governments of the world. Will he mention that, even while families hold up pictures of desaparecidos, their kin, who disappeared in countries run by Catholic bishops and generals, like Argentina, Chili, and Croatia? Will he mention Rwanda? Will he say he's sorry Pius XII said nothing while millions of Jews were taken to their deaths? Will he mention Monsignor Tiso, head of the Slovak State, who delivered the first trainload of Jews to Auschwitz? How about the Catholic Ustashi of Croatia who carried out the "quiet holocaust" of Jews and Serbs? I doubt it.

How about women who had priests inspect their naked bodies, claiming to be looking for "witches marks" so they could light them on fire, in a sacred celebration during the Middle Ages called auto de Fe (act of faith)? Will he admit to hundreds of thousands of victims in this category alone, or will he avoid numbers?

And then there are other matters, like the mad monks led by Saint Cyril, the patron saint of arsonists, who burned the Great Library at Alexandria, destroying 600,000 volumes of knowledge of the ancient world--the greatest property crime of all time. Surely he should mention that, but he probably won't. Then there was that dust-up with Luther and the wars that followed wherein Germany lost half its population in a generation. And of course the slave trade-shall he admit that his church was an instigator and a major player in that institution? And the destruction, plunder, rape and papal pillage of the peoples of the Americas and the eradication of their culture-will he go into all that? Will he say he's sorry that some of his predecessors tried to kill every Protestant in France when they were called Huguenots?

Will he admit the "Donation of Constantine" was a forgery, and thereby acknowledge that his predecessor, Adrian IV, the only English pope, really didn't own Ireland and therefore had no right to give it to England? Will he admit that forging documents has been a Vatican tradition for centuries, even during John Paul's lifetime, when favored Nazis had Holy See passports to escape Europe and their crimes?

And finally what about all the boys who were castrated to make them into church singers, shouldn't he apologize for that also? What will he say to the children who have had their bodies raped and their trust stolen when the priests of his church molested them? Will he ask forgiveness for the bishops who knew, and re- enabled the priestly perverts by moving them about, giving them access to more and more children? If so, will it be a real apology or some whiny, wishy-washy non-apology, like he gave before he came to Denver. Will he now apologize for insulting the American victims and the American people with that crass, so called apology of seven years ago when he implied we were so bad we had corrupted his priests?

No one expects him to apologize to the Third World, which has been kept in hunger, in major part, due to the Vatican's ideas on birth control. Women may not expect an apology either, as he is convinced they have no right to control their own bodies. Don't even ask about the gays and lesbians.

I think the question must be asked: could a church devoted to deviltry have beaten the record of harm and horror established by this one, which claims it was selected by the Lord to run the world until his return? Could Judas and a long line of betrayers have done worse than Peter and the popes?

-- secular humanist (skeptic@nowhere.not), March 12, 2000.

Catholic Basher!

-- Squirrel Hunter (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), March 12, 2000.

ouch! the truth hurts!!!

-- kermie (, March 13, 2000.

the mark of the beast


-- laura (ladylogic@............), March 13, 2000.

Thanks secular, for posting that. My problem with all religion, including Catholic is the setback they caused to science and medicine for years and years.

Scientitsts and geologist were condemned for disagreeing with the the religious notion hat the earth was only 4004 year old, when actually it was proved to be millions of years old. Scientists were reviled for saying the earth was round and not flat. The silly religious belief that storms were caused by Satan led to villifying attacks on Ben Franklin and his experiments with electricity.

The insane were treated in the most inhumane manner becaue theologians said they were possessed by the devil, not simply ill. The Church forbade the study of medicine. Luther, ascribed his own disease to "devils' spells, saying that "Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind, for he is prince of death..." but that no malady comes from God." The study of anatomy was set back for years because of the churches ban on cutting up a sacred body.

In 1772 The Rev. Edward Massey preached and published a sermon, "The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Innoculation." Women were denied anesthetics during childbirth, for they had to follow literally the Bible to suffer the pangs of childbirth.

Living in filth was regarde by great numbers of holy men as an evidence of sanctity. St. Abraham was venerated as the holiest of holies for never in 50 years washing hands nor feet.

Catholic and Protestant theologians vied with each other in detecting witches guilty of producing sickness or bad weather. Thousands of women were sent to torture, burning and death, because of the Biblican admonition, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."

The persecution of Galileo, the attacks on Darwin, the killing of Severatus, Bishop Horsley's attacks on Newton, DaVinci hiding his drawings not be approved of by the church, persecution of Hobbes for his work, Jews condemned by Catholics for encouraging cleanliness and hygiene. Catholics running Moors and Jews out of Spain along with killing many. (See "Spain, a Land Blighted by Religion). The slaughter of the Inca's, Aztec's and Native Americans by Spainards, to glorify God. Socrates forced to drink Hemlock.

The list goes on an on. The greatest evil is always represented as the greatest good. For an in depth study read: A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. by A. D. White. All churches have much to apologize for.

-- gilda (, March 13, 2000.

Yeah, and what about all those lapsed Catholics? Maybe the Pope should apologize to them. Why have so many left the church? Because they were subjected to a strange psychology that, unfortunately, they will never be able to entirely throw off. To quote George Meyer, head writer for "The Simpsons," from this week's New Yorker:

"I felt like I was a happy kid, but I did feel that I was made to shoulder a lot of burdens that shouldn't have been mine---such as the frustrations of older women wearing nun costumes. People talk about how horrible it is to be brought up Catholic, and it's all true. The main thing was that there was no sense of proportion. I would chew a piece of gum at school, and the nun would say, 'Jesus is very angry with you about that,' and on the wall behind her would be a dying, bleeding guy on a cross. That's a horrifying image to throw at a little kid. You really could almost think that your talking in line, say, was on a par with killing Jesus. You just weren't sure, and there was never a moderating voice."

-- Celia Thaxter (, March 14, 2000.

All churches have much to apologize for.

Why should the present generation be responsible for what happened in the name of their church many years ago. What does the Catholic Church do now that is so objectionable.

I don't hold the current generation of Germans responsible for what their forbears did during the Third Reich.

-- Sir Richard (, March 14, 2000.

The present generation is not responsible for the actions of their ancestors, churches, schools, parents, etc., But we can learn from it.

But frankly, many churches are still condemning behavior, sexual preference, TV shows, books, school curriculums, movies, music and other religions. I don't want any part of such an intolerant organization.

Also, the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis have taken up the old cause and intolerance is flourishing. I want no part of this either.

-- gilda (, March 14, 2000.

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