In Phoenix, a compelling model of reconciliation
In the run-up to the millennium, Pope John Paul II has led a public examination of conscience for the worldwide church that has resulted in remarkable apologies for historic wrongdoings by the church.
Though there has been some grumbling in the ranks, the church can only enhance its credibility throughout the world to admit to wrongs such as those committed against Jews in long centuries of suspicion and contempt and by a failure in some church quarters to speak up in behalf of the Jews during the Holocaust.
If we are truly a church of compassion and forgiveness, then it is only appropriate that we seek forgiveness, at least in retrospect, of those who were victims of church zealotry in such episodes as the Crusades.
Just as important, however, is what the popes example can inspire locally. The pope has designated the year 1999 as one of forgiveness and reconciliation. Undoubtedly dioceses throughout the world will observe that intent in any number of ways, but one, the Phoenix archdiocese, has already provided a compelling model.
Bishop Thomas J. OBrien, citing the popes wish, in mid-December gathered with thousands to acknowledge in English and Spanish the sins and failures of the church of Phoenix and to ask for healing and forgiveness between families, cultures, clergy, laity and individuals.
Those gathered responded We ask forgiveness to a list of failures that might apply anywhere in the United States:
The event in Phoenix was held on the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which marks the day in 1531 when the Virgin Mary appeared in Mexico to the Indian peasant Juan Diego.
There is no question that as members of the body of Christ, we have sinned, OBrien told the crowd. We have made mistakes.
The sentiment is refreshing; the call to public confession a true step in courage.
National Catholic Reporter, January 22, 1999