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Pope Francis Apologizes for the Persecution of the Waldensians


Christianity Today has an interesting article out on pope Francis’s recent apology to the Waldensians. Francis is the head of about 48% of the world’s Christians.

To set the context, during the 1600’s countless Protestants were murdered, raped, and robbed by the Catholic Church’s attempt to put an end to the movement which had been growing in opposition to Catholic corruption. On Easter day 1655, five thousand elite soldiers were given permission to attack and pillage the Waldensians. In a ruthless display of barbarianism, they murdered 1,712 Protestants. They tortured, raped, and looted even more. This is known today as the Piedmont Easter Massacre.¬†Here is a description from from an observer as recorded in J.A. Wylie’s book, History of the Waldensens:

Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die.

Given pope Francis’ apology on behalf of the Catholic Church, how should Protestants respond?

We should absolutely accept the apology and forgive as we have been forgiven. There is no other Christian response. We have been forgiven much and do not posess the right to withold forgivness from anyone.

Does this mean that we can now put our differences aside and become unified? No. It doesn’t. There is still much work to be done before the real differences are reconciled. The differences are much deeper than forgiving a wrong done to us 360 years ago. It is far easier to apologize for something nine generations removed from us than it is to acknowledge the issues that are still dividing us today and seek to rectify those. Those issues, the issues of doctrine, do not appear to be on the radar just yet. In the meantime, we forgive, remain faithful, and wait patiently for the real issues to be addressed.

Read: Pope Apologizes to First Evangelicals for Persecution

8 thoughts on “Pope Francis Apologizes for the Persecution of the Waldensians

  1. Raul Martinez

    This is not surprising. They have been a part of some of the worst atrocities in history. To apologize now is too late. Why not apologize to those they murdered and raped 360 years ago? Are they going to compensate the families that are still alive for the land they stole? Yes we should forgive but this is a smokescreen for the things they are doing today which are just as bad. But no worries. They will apologize for today’s sins in another 300 years.

    • ajcerda

      We will never know the reason why they delay in confessing sins. I agree that the more pressing issues are those which face us today. I want to be clear though, this is not just a Catholic sin. In my own Reformed tradition there were executions by burning at the stake as well as a few instances of mass slaughter. None of this pleases God no matter who the aggressor was. My main point however is that doctrine is they key; not 300 year old sins. We must forgive because we have been forgiven.

  2. Lizzie Soto

    It’s hard to forgive when the history is so marred with gross things like this. You are right though we should.

    • ajcerda

      You are right Lizzie. It is so hard to forgive at times. This particular one though should not be right? We are not directly affected since none of us lived through it ourselves. It is a part of our history as Protestants but not our personal history.

  3. Lenette

    Just as a matter of correction the Pope is the leader of the entire Christian church not just Catholics and there are more than 48% Catholics more like 70%. Just because some groups don’t accept the Pope’s authority doesn’t mean they can escape his authority over them. It means they are in rebellion. So that little detail aside I agree with what you wrote here. The apology is long overdue. When I think of how we behaved and even how the Church behaves today I am embarrassed. Just this morning I read of another priest who is facing charges of abuse and it was kept quiet by the church for years. Even after the recent promise to deal with molestation quickly and justly. I could never leave the Church but things like this make me want to.

    • Erma Vogt

      Lenette hi! First I want to say I love the spelling of your name. It so cute! I on the other hand was named after my great grand-mama. Can you tell? LOL!!!!!!

      Okay honestly I know where you’re coming from because when I was Catholic it was a matter of pride to be able to say that we had the largest church. Especially the worldwide nature of it! It’s just so huge! But in reality I think his numbers are about right. Look up the sizes of Christian denominations. Wikipedia has a good summary. Really I think the number may be lower. This is because unlike most Protestant churches you can’t unenroll from the Catholic church. Once you are baptized into the Church you are counted as Catholic for life. So after subtracting all the people who are no longer Catholic like myself who has now rejected the Catholic teaching and no longer believe it, the number looks a lot smaller. Consider the fast growth of the Pentecostal church in Latin America. These were no doubt all Catholic at some point. Or at least considered Catholic. And they are growing at a very fast rate. So you have the ex-Catholics still being counted by the Church but we all know they aren’t really. The estimate there that I have heard is something like 200 million which brings the number of Catholics down to about 1 billion. Protestants are 800 million but this is not counting all Protestants because the church in China, Korea and Arab nations is vastly under reported due to persecution. There is no real official count of Christians in these areas but when I was in China a few years ago and had the joy of worshipping with an underground church it was vast. I’m talking a 30000 square foot abandoned warehouse packed shoulder to shoulder standing room only of undocumented Evangelicals. Here we would only allow 5000 people to occupy a building that size standing which is 6 sq feet per person. They broke all fire code rules we have. They would have loved to have that much room but if they did they wouldn’t use the extra room for themselves they would bring more people. They don’t count attendance like we do but they estimated 2 Sq ft per person so 15,000? That was just one of thousands of churches just like it.
      I have read estimates of known Christians to put the Catholic Church as low as 45 % today and everything I have read says that by 2020 there will no longer be more Catholics than Protestants. I think we are already there if you subtract ex Catholics and add in Christians from the persecuted areas of the world that are not being counted right now.

      I know what you mean by the Pope being the authority for all Christians because I used to believe that too. But now I just see it as the hogwash that it is. The only one with that type of authority to be an authority even over the unwilling is God.

  4. John

    What counts as Christian? Can we really count Catholic and the other cults as Christian when counting Christians worldwide?

  5. Rod

    The distinction is not who is saved and who is not, but who belongs to the class of religion called ‘Christian’. This classification includes all who profess to follow Christ. That is what differentiates the Christian category from the Jewish or Muslim or Hindu category. It is not a statement about correct doctrine but of classification.

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