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Document on the Church and the sins of the past

Document on the Church and the sins of the past

EWTN, ZENIT News Agency
February 3, 2000
Title: Document on the Church and the sins of the past
Author:
Publication: EWTN, ZENIT News Agency
Date: February 3, 2000

To Be Presented on Day of Forgiveness Presided by Pope

VATICAN CITY, FEB 2 (ZENIT).- After 3 years of work, the document that will guide Catholic pastors and faithful in the principles underlying the Church's request for forgiveness for errors committed by her children [???] in the past is virtually complete.

The text was requested by the Pope himself. It is entitled "The Church and the Sins of the Past: Remembering in Order to Reconcile". The document is the fruit of the work of a team of members of the International Theological Commission, presided by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The document follows the outline established in the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. According to the Italian agency "Adn-Kronos," the document will be published within the next few weeks, allowing Christians to consult it before the Pope gives his address on the Day of Forgiveness --  the First Sunday of Lent.

Before writing the final document, the theologians responsible for the project submitted the text for approval on two occasions to the 30 members of the International Theological Commission meeting in plenary session. The vote in favor of the document was very substantial.

The text has been written for purposes of consultation; it is not a papal document. It includes a broad theological reflection on the meaning of purification of the memory. There is also an explanation of the doctrinal reasons that make an act of contrition for past sins possible, reviewing a trajectory that goes back to biblical origins, such as the great confessions of sin before God of the Jewish people and continuing with the principles of the Gospel. There are many examples of historic requests for forgiveness, such as that of Adrian VI, elected Pope in 1522, who at the time of the Reformation asked for forgiveness for the sins of the Curia, or that of Paul VI, who atoned for the offenses inflicted on Eastern Christians.

Recently Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained to "Octava Dies," a program of the Vatican Television Center, that "the idea is not to accuse the past; we are always sinners and we want to understand this with humility and do penance, which renews the Church and each one."

According to declarations by Fr. Georges Cottier, secretary of the International Theological Commission (Cf. ZE99112611) and Theologian of the Pontifical Household, the document makes a fundamental distinction: "the Church is holy because it receives and communicates the holiness of Christ to humanity, although Christians are sinners, as we are all unfaithful to Christ's grace."

We have to speak about the past, according to Dominican Fr. Cottier, for two reasons: "the first because the communion of saints exists, by which the Church is one through the ages, and in the Church there is a community of charity and prayer for sins committed. In the second place, it must be said that it is not a question of judging people, as only God can judge persons, but when we recall the past of the Church we realize that there have been events that are an obstacle to evangelization. On this it is necessary to have a purification of the memory, that is, to make a real judgment that is balanced and just."
 



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