Posted February 19, 2020
This article in Christianity Today reports that Pope Francis apologized for the Roman Catholic Church’s persecution of the Waldensians during the Middle Ages. Here is an excerpt from the report that includes the apology:
“On the part of the Catholic Church, I ask your forgiveness, I ask it for the non-Christian and even inhuman attitudes and behavior that we have showed you,” Francis said during the first-ever visit by a pope to a Waldensian church. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”
The report explains that the persecution of the Waldensians (“massacre, rape, and pillaging”) took place under the orders of Pope Alexander III in the 12th century. According to a scholar quoted in the report Alexander III was unenlightened and therefore unable to recognize that the Waldensians were good Christians. This scholar contends that Pope Innocent III was more enlightened, appreciating the monastic lifestyle of Waldo and his followers. Innocent III’s response (in 1210) to the Waldensians’ success was to authorize the organization of a new religious order under St. Francis, the current pope’s name’s sake. Pope Francis, the scholar claims, could very well be Pope Waldo if only Alexander III had been more “enlightened” and appreciated the Waldensians. The current Pope, Francis, is “enlightened” and supposedly views the Waldensians as “very much Christians after his own heart.” Francis appreciates the way the Waldensians provide “service to humanity which suffers, to the poor, the sick, the migrants.”
Unfortunately the report doesn’t explain any of the doctrinal reforms the Waldensians implemented. The Waldensians believed in the supreme authority of Scripture and that the preaching of the gospel is more important than the sacraments. The Roman Catholic Church has grown to appreciate the “monastic lifestyle” and “service to humanity” of the Waldensians, but continues to despise their view of Scripture and the preaching. Pope Francis is trying to present the Roman Catholic Church as more friendly than it was in the past. But he and the Roman Catholic Church remain opposed to doctrinal reforms.