Pope Francis' visit and encounter with the Evangelical Valdese Church


Pope Francis’ Address at Waldensian Temple

“On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask you forgiveness for the non-Christian attitudes and behavior, even inhuman that, in history, we have had against you. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”

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The Holy Father left the Archbishopric this morning and went by car to the Waldensian Temple of Turin.

Pope Francis was received at the entrance of the Temple by the Moderator of the Waldensian Table, Pastor Eugenio Bernardini; by the President of the Consistory of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Turin, Doctor Sergio Velluto, and by the titular of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of Turin, Pastor Paolo Ribet.

Then, after the greeting addresses of Pastor Paolo Ribet and Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, the Holy Father delivered the address we translate below.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy I find myself among you today. I greet you all with the words of the Apostle Paul: “To you, who are of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, we wish grace and peace” (1 Thessalonians 1 — Inter-confessional translation in current language). In particular, I greet the Moderator of the Waldensian Table, Reverend Pastor Eugenio Bernardini, and the Pastor of this community of Turin, Reverend Paolo Ribet, to whom I express my heartfelt gratitude for the invitation that they so kindly addressed to me. The cordial welcome you have given me today makes me think of the meetings with the friends of the Waldensian Evangelical Church of the River Plate, whose spirituality and faith I was able to appreciate, and learn so many good things.

One of the main fruits, which the Ecumenical Movement has already made it possible to gather in these years, is the discovery of the fraternity that unites all those that believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptized in his name. This bond is not based on simply human criteria, but on the radical sharing of the founding experience of Christian life: the encounter with the love of God that is revealed to us in Jesus Christ and the transforming action of the Holy Spirit who assists us in the journey of life. The rediscovery of this fraternity enables us to accept the profound bond that already unites us, despite our differences. It is a communion that is still underway, which, with prayer, with continuous personal and community conversion and with the help of theologians, we hope that, confident in the action of the Holy Spirit, will be able to become full and visible communion in truth and in charity.

Unity, which is fruit of the Holy Spirit, does not mean uniformity. Brothers, in fact, are united by the same origin but are not identical among themselves. This is very clear in the New Testament where, although all those who share the same faith in Jesus Christ are called brethren, one intuits that not all the Christian communities, of which they were a part, had the same style, or an identical internal organization. In fact, within the small community itself different charisms could be distinguished (cf. 1 Corinthians 12-14) and even in the proclamation of the Gospel there were diferences and sometimes arguments (cf. Acts 15:36-40). Unfortunately, it happened and continues to happen that brothers do not accept their differences and end by warring against one another. Reflecting on the history of our relations, we cannot but be saddened in face of the contentions and violence committed in the name of the faith itself, and I ask the Lord that he may give us the grace to recognize ourselves all sinners and to be able to forgive one another. It is by the initiative of God, who is never resigned in face of man’s sin, that new sways are opened to live our fraternity, and we cannot subtract ourselves from this. On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask you forgiveness for the non-Christian attitudes and behavior, even inhuman that, in history, we have had against you. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!

Therefore we are profoundly grateful to the Lord in seeing that today the relations between Catholics and Waldensians are increasingly founded on mutual respect and fraternal charity. The occasions are not few that have contributed to render these relations more solid. I am thinking, to mention some examples, of the collaboration for the publication in Italian  of an inter-confessional translation of the Bible, of the pastoral agreements for the celebration of marriage and, more recently, of the writing of a joint appeal against violence to women. Among the many cordial contacts in different local contexts, where prayer and the study of the Scriptures is shared, I would like to recall the ecumenical exchange of gifts carried out, on the occasion of Easter, at Pinerolo, by the Waldensian Church of Pinerolo and by the Diocese. The Waldensian Church offered Catholics the wine for the celebration of the Easter Vigil and the Catholic Diocese offered Waldensian brethren the bread for the Holy Supper of Easter Sunday. It is a gesture that goes well beyond simple courtesy and makes us look forward, for certain verses, to the unity of the Eucharistic table for which we long.

Encouraged by the steps, we are called to continue to walk together. A realm in which ample possibilities of collaboration opens between Waldensians and Catholics is that of evangelization. Aware that the Lord has preceded us and always precedes us in love (cf. 1 John 4:10), we go together to encounter the men and women of today, who sometimes seem so distracted and indifferent, to transmit to them the heart of the Gospel, namely, “the beauty of the salvific love of God manifested in Jesus Christ dead and risen” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 36). Another realm in which we can work increasingly united is that of service to suffering humanity, to the poor, the sick and migrants. Stemming from the liberating work of grace in each one of us is the need to witness the merciful face of God who takes care of all and, in particular, those who are in need. The choice of the poor, of the least, of those that society excludes, bring us closer to the very heart of God, who made himself poor to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9), and, consequently, brings us closer to one another. The differences on important anthropological and ethical questions, which continue to exist between Catholics and Waldensians, do not impede us from finding ways of collaboration in these and other fields. If we walk together, the Lord will help us to live that communion that precedes all argument.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again for this meeting, which I hope to confirm us in a new way of being with one another: looking first of all at the grandeur of our common faith and of our life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit and, only afterwards, the differences that still subsist. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I ask you, please, to pray for me. May the Lord grant all of us his mercy and his peace.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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