In an effort to deepen unity, Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s mistreatment of other Christians, and called on Catholics to forgive followers of those traditions for any offenses of “today and in the past.” Rome increasingly covers her past with apologies and kindness in an effort to appeal to non-Catholics to join with her in ecumenical activities.
“As Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I plead for mercy and forgiveness for non-evangelical behaviors by Catholics against Christians of other churches,” Francis said. “We cannot undo what was done in the past, but we don’t want to allow the weight of past sins to pollute our relationships,” he said. “The mercy of God will renew our relations.”
The pope said these words during an ecumenical vespers service in the packed Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls in Rome at the close of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Representatives of various churches, such as Anglicans, Orthodox and Pentecostals, participated in the event.
The pope asked all to ask “above all the forgiveness for the sin of our division, an open wound in the Body of Christ.”
“We will move forward on the road to full visible communion among Christians not only when we get closer to one another, but especially when we are converted to the Lord, that by his grace chooses us and calls us to be his disciples,” Francis said, adding that “it’s not only the call which unites us, but we [also] share the same mission: to proclaim the wonderful works of God… Walking and working together, we [will] realize that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”
“The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The Great Controversy, page 571