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The BBC's Liz Mackean reports
"It is an unprecedented apology"
 real 28k

The BBC's David Willey reports from the Vatican
"On bended knee the Pope implored God's pardon for the faults of all believers"
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Sunday, 12 March, 2000, 19:48 GMT
Pope apologises for church sins
The Pope blesses his bishops at the Vatican
Pope John Paul II has publicly asked God's forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women and minorities.

The unprecedented gesture by the spiritual leader of the world's one billion Catholics is one of the first major events of the Vatican's year-long celebrations marking the beginning of the new Christian millennium.

We are asking pardon ... for the use of violence committed in the service of truth

Pope John Paul II
"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other religions," said Pope John Paul II, dressed in the purple robes of Lent.

The phrase "violence in the service of truth" is an often-used reference to the treatment of heretics during the Inquisition, the Crusades, and forced conversions of native peoples.

Sweeping forgiveness

The Pope's homily at The Day of Pardon Mass in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican did not mention specific groups.

Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by a not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant

Cardinal Edward Cassidy
But confessions of sin made by five Vatican cardinals and two bishops, each with a response from the Pope, did ask for forgiveness for named wrongs.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, raising the issue of the treatment of Jews, said: "Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by a not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant."

"We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood," the Pope responded.

The Roma, or gypsy people, were also mentioned as having suffered.

Israel wanted more

Jerusalem builders constructing ramp at Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem is preparing for the Pope's visit
Israel's chief rabbi, Meir Lau, said he expected more and described himself as "deeply frustrated" by John Paul's failure to mention the Holocaust by name.

"I hope deeply that the Pope of today whom I appreciate very much for his doings and for his condemning anti-Semitism will complete the asking of forgiveness next week in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem," Rabbi Lau said.

The Pope is going on pilgrimage to Israel later this month - the first papal visit for more than 30 years.

But Rabbi David Rosen, head of the Jerusalem office of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said expectations that the Pope would say more were perhaps "a little unrealistic".

Other confessions touched on treatment of racial and ethnic groups and "contempt for their cultures and religious traditions" and towards women "who are all too often humiliated" and marginalised.

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