PARIS (Nov. 3)
Pope John Paul II has become the first Pope to specifically renounce the Spanish inquisition. Addressing scientists, academicians and cultural leaders at Madrid University today, he conceded that the Catholic Church had erred in its war on heretics which took the lives of thousands of Jews and other non-conformists in 16th-17th century Spain, and in other Catholic countries.
The Pope’s remarks were much more to the point than the general expression of regret for past religious persecutions by Vatican Council II 20 years ago. He made them in the course of praising Spain’s contributions to world culture. But, he observed, during times like the inquisition, the Church was guilty of "tensions, errors and excess" which it views today "in the objective light of history."
The Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Many if not most of the victims of the inquisition over the next 200 years were Marranos, Jews who formally converted to the Catholic faith but continued to practice their own religion in secret.
The Pope, who is on what he calls a spiritual visit to Spain, met with leaders of the Spanish Jewish community with whom, he said, "We have a common spiritual heritage."