Menu JTA Search

Pope Hints Church May Ask for Forgiveness for Inquisition

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Pope John Paul II has indicated that the Vatican may ask forgiveness for the Inquisition as part of a policy of self-searching as the Christian millennium approaches.

The pope said on Saturday that the Inquisition belonged to a “tormented” phase of the history of the Roman Catholic Church, and he noted that he had already called upon the faithful to reflect deeply and sincerely on this period.

But, he said, the church could not ask for pardon based only on emotionally charged public opinion.

“Only when historical science has managed to establish the true facts can theologians and ecclesiastical authorities express an objectively based judgment,” the pope said.

The pope was addressing several dozen international historians, scholars and other experts on the Inquisition who had met for three days behind closed doors at the Vatican.

The symposium was the church’s first official examination of what many regard as the darkest chapter of its history.

It was held as part of the Vatican’s preparations for the year 2000. John Paul wants the church to begin its new millennium by owning up to and repenting for past sins.

The Inquisition was set up in the 13th century as a permanent tribunal charged with rooting out and combating heresy. It lasted into the 19th century and became notorious for brutal methods that included the interrogation, imprisonment, torture and burning at the stake of many thousands of people.

NEXT STORY