Pope Francis asked forgiveness for Catholics’ persecution of the Waldensians, an evangelical movement that began in the 12th century.
It was founded by Peter Waldo, a wealthy merchant in Lyons, France, who gave up his riches and preached on evangelical poverty as a way towards perfection. The movement, also known as the “The Poor of Lyons”, was declared heretical in 1184 by Pope Lucius III and by Pope Innocent III in 1215.
The evangelical movement is centered in the Piedmont region of Italy.
The pastor of the Waldensian Temple of Turin, Paolo Ribet, welcomed the Holy Father, referring to him as “our brother Francis.”
While reflecting on the theme of brotherhood and unity, the Pope said that ecumenism brings together those who believe in Jesus Christ. He also said that “unity, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, does not mean uniformity.”
However, differences between faiths have not always been respected and instead, seen as a cause for war.
“On the part of the Catholic Church,” he said, “I ask you forgiveness. I ask forgiveness for the non-Christian, even inhuman, attitudes and behaviors that we have shown you in history. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”
The Pope went on to express his gratefulness at the good relations that now exist between the Catholic Church and the Waldensians, which he said “are more founded upon mutual respect and brotherly love.”
Among the areas of collaboration between Catholics and Waldensians, he highlighted the care of those who suffer, particularly the poor, the sick and migrants.
“The differences on important anthropological and ethical questions, that continue to exist between Catholics and Waldensians, does 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 every contrast.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis thanked them for welcoming him, which he said “confirms us in a new of being one with the others: looking first of all at the greatness of our common faith and our life in Christ and the Holy Spirit.”
Greeted with loud applause by those present, the Pope was given a reproduction of the first French Bible printed in 1532 by the pastor of the Waldensian Temple.
Eugenio Bernardini, the moderator of the Waldensian Church, said that the Bible was a “a sign of the common source of faith and of the common commitment in giving witness so that the world may believe.”