Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 13/03/2000 info: custodia@netvision.net.il
Day of Pardon

Today March 12th 2000, the First Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father celebrated the Eucharist with the Cardinals and asked forgiveness from the Lord for the sins, past and present, of the sons and daughters of the Church. This "Day of Pardon" was announced during a Press Conference on the 7th of March during which the document "Memory and Reconciliation" was presented by the International Theological Commission. In presenting this unique event the affirmed that: This celebration of the Day of Pardon was expressly desired by the Holy Father as a powerful sign in this Jubilee Year, which is by its very nature a moment of conversion. "As the Successor of Peter, I ask that in this year of mercy the Church, strong in the holiness which she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters. All have sinned and none can claim righteousness before God (cf. 1 Kgs 8:46)... Christians are invited to acknowledge, before God and before those offended by their actions, the faults which they have committed. Let them do so without seeking anything in return, but strengthened only by the ‘love of God which has been poured into our hearts’ (Rom 5:5)" (Incarnationis Mysterium, 11; Tertio millennio adveniente, 33).

It was in this spirit that Pope John Paul, this morning at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome in a primatial act, confessed the sins of Christians over the centuries down to our own time, conscious that the Church is a unique subject in history, "a single mystical person". The Church is a communion of saints, but a solidarity in sin also exists among all the members of the People of God. Wearing the Lenten vestments the Pope took part in a special penitential rite and besides asking forgiveness embraced also the Crucifix. This was a prophetic gesture as the words delivered in his homily were also a coragious act which opens the way for the Church to move forward in the New Millenium.

These were the Pardon requests presented to God during this liturgy:

a) a general confession of sin: purification of memory and commitment to the path of true conversion (cf. Paul VI, 4 January 1964 at Calvary in Jerusalem)

b) sins committed in the service of truth: sins of intolerance and violence against dissidents, wars of religion, acts of violence and oppression during the Crusades, methods of coercion employed in the Inquisition... (cf. John Paul II, Pro Memoria for the Consistory of 13 June 1994, 7; "Tertio millennio adveniente", 35)

c) sins which have compromised the unity of the Body of Christ: excommunications, persecutions, divisions... (cf. John Paul II, "Tertio millennio adveniente", 34; "Ut unum sint", 34 and 82; Paderborn, 22 June 1996)

d) sins regarding relations with the people of the first Covenant, Israel: contempt, hostility, failure to speak out... (cf. John Paul II, Mainz, 17 November 1980; Vatican Basilica, 7 December 1991; Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, "We Remember", 16 March 1998, No. 4)

e) sins against love, peace, the rights of peoples and respect for cultures and other religions which took place during the work of evangelization... (cf. John Paul II, Assisi, 27 October 1986; Santo Domingo, 13 October 1992; General Audience, 21 October 1992)

f) sins against human dignity and the unity of the human race: against women, races and ethnic groups... (cf. John Paul II, Angelus Message, 10 June 1995; Letter to Women, 29 June 1995)

g) sins against basic rights of the person and against social justice: the defenceless, the poor and the unborn, economic and social injustices, emargination... (cf. John Paul II, Yaoundé, 13 August 1985; General Audience, 3 June 1992)

One thing must be forcibly stated: the confession of sins made by the Pope is addressed to God, who alone can forgive sins, but it is also made before men, from whom the responsibilities of Christians cannot be hidden. This confession does not entail a judgment on those who have gone before us: judgment belongs to God alone and will be declared on the last day. Christians today do not believe that they are "better than their fathers" (cf. 1 Kg 19:4), but they do wish to state what have been, in the light of the Gospel and the Spirit of Christ, objective historical errors in ways of acting. Consequently the confession clearly points to certain historical failings, but the parties responsible are neither judged nor named. The confession takes place within context of the solidarity of sinners: the baptized of the present are conscious of their link to the baptized of the past. Judgment is not passed on Christians of earlier times, nor are extenuating circumstances overlooked, but regret is expressed and the evil done is confessed as we take upon ourselves the failings of those who have preceded us. By placing the highpoint of the confession of sins within the context of the liturgy, Pope John Paul II wishes to demonstrate that this act has its own inner meaning and aims at the purification of memory and at reconciliation between Christians and between the Church and humanity. Confessing the historical sins of Christians is not however aimed solely at the purification of memory: it is also meant to be an occasion for a change of mentality and certain attitudes in the Church, as well as the source of a new teaching for the future, in the consciousness that the sins of the past remain as temptations in the present. The confession of sins is a means of favouring dialogue, reconciliation and peace.

This liturgy was a service to truth: the Church is not afraid to confront the sins of Christians when she becomes conscious of their errors.
It is a service to faith: the acknowledgment and confession of sins opens the way to a renewed fidelity to the Lord.
It is a service to charity: a witness of love in the humility of one who begs pardon. The Church is also a teacher when she asks the Lord for pardon and the forgiveness of sins. This was the spirit of this celebration because "The Church cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves through repentance of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act" (Tertio millennio adveniente, 33). Consequently, a liturgy seeking pardon from God for the sins committed by Christians down the centuries is not only legitimate; it is also the most fitting means of expressing repentance and gaining purification.

Pope's Homily in Italian found here

created by John Abela ofm for Custody of the Holy Land


Created / Updated Monday, March 13, 2000 at 03:53:52