In the scheme of troubles that we’re all thinking about these days, this may seem small, but it also may give some historical context that we all need: this week, Pope Francis visited a Waldensian Church and asked for forgiveness.
The Waldensians were among the first reformers, predating Luther and Calvin by 40 years. Much like Francis of Assisi, Peter Waldo was a wealthy merchant who gave away all his wealth and set out to follow Jesus in poverty. That was in the 1170s, and others began to follow him. Unlike Francis, the Church turned on Waldo. By 1215, at the Fourth Lateran Council, the small band of Waldensians were declared heretics and underwent centuries of persecution. The Waldensians barely survived until the 16th century, when they were grafted into the Great Reformation as it swept across Europe.
Today, there are about 50,000 Waldensians, mainly in Italy, Argentina, and Uruguay.
In yet another act that seems small but is in fact historic, Pope Francis visited the Waldensian Church in Turin, Italy.
“On the part of the Catholic Church, I ask your forgiveness, I ask it for the non-Christian and even inhuman attitudes and behaviour that we have showed you,” said Pope Francis.
He added: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”
I lay in bed last night, wondering if humanity will ever be able to overcome the savagery that besets us. Easy access to firearms — not those used for hunting, those used for killing other human beings — is simply insane; we need to fix it, but we cannot seem to. Unthinkable amounts of money have corrupted American politics to the point that one-person-one-vote is no longer functional. We still have people living among us who think think that a person’s melanin level affects their worth.
But let us not lose hope. 800 years after declaring Waldensians heretics, the leader of the Catholic Church asked for their forgiveness. That is simply amazing.
Humanity is capable of unspeakable evil, but let us also look for the moments of breathtaking good.