Extra! Extra! At an inter-faith prayer meeting in Italy, Pope Benedict acknowledged “with great shame” that Christians have committed violence in God’s name.

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From Reuters:

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith,” [the Pope] said in his address to the delegations in an Assisi basilica…

It was one of the few times that a pope has apologised for events such as the Crusades or the use of force to spread the faith in the New World. The late Pope John Paul apologised in 2000 for Christianity’s historical failures.”

Interesting fact #1: Pope Benedict refused to attend the same inter-faith meeting in 1986, when he was a cardinal. He later criticised the gathering for implying that all religions are equal.

Interesting fact #2: This famous inter-faith gathering reserves spots for “representative[s] of African traditional religions.” (I can only imagine the process by which these spots are filled…)

 

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I’ve long been interested in the idea of official apologies for historical wrongs. In 2011, I wrote an article on the subject for The Huffington Post: ‘Sorry, Ladies.’ 

I gave a decent summary of ‘historical apologies’ issued recently:

In the last fifteen years or so, we’ve said sorry to aboriginal groups forced into residential schools (Canada) or split apart from their families (Australia). We’ve said sorry to countries invaded during war (Japan to South-East Asia, Serbia to Bosnia, Germany to…a lot of states). We’ve apologized for slavery (US, EU), for Apartheid (South Africa), for Colonialism (Japan), for the Holocaust (Germany), and for collaborating in the Holocaust (France). We’ve said sorry for revolutions gone awry (Russia), for genocide and for looking away while genocide was taking place (US, Canada). Our apologies are for isolated incidents (wars, murders, genocides) and for long-term, sustained systems of oppression (slavery, racial discrimination, oppressive political regimes). We’re sorry to Jews (Germany, Vatican, Switzerland), to migrant children (Australia, Britain), to Aboriginals (Canada, Australia), to political protesters (Britain), to and to homosexuals (Cuba, Germany).

Before coming to this conclusion:

And still, most states have failed to eek out a single ‘I’m sorry’ for women.

Are apologies like the Pope’s necessary acts of atonement? important components of any historical record? empty token? symbolic gestures?

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