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.
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