Making reference to the forgiveness requested by the Pope for the faults, past and present, of the sons and daughters of the Church, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Committee for the Great Jubilee 2000, stated that "a penitential act, however public it may be, must not appear as a form of spectacular self-flagellation, nor must it be considered from on high with a certain morbid curiosity."
He continued: "Only those who deeply love the Church are capable of clearly and forcefully examining her. Those on the outside are at risk of not understanding the religious meaning of a penitential act."
Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained that the document was written by the International Theological Commission, over which he presides. Created by Paul VI in 1969, the commission collaborates with the Holy See, especially with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Its 30 members, who work in communion with the Magisterium, come from different theological schools throughout the world.
The theme of today's document was suggested by Cardinal Ratzinger who appointed the sub-commission that studied the question. After various rounds of debate and exchanged opinions this body gave its definitive ruling. Once approved, the text was submitted for approval to the president who then informed the Holy Father of the result. The cardinal made it clear that the document is not part of the Magisterium.
Bishop Marini, master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies, spoke about the Holy Year 2000 Day of Pardon which will take place on Sunday, March 12 and will coincide with a eucharistic celebration by the Pope and the cardinals in the Vatican Basilica. This day, said Bishop Marini, "was expressly desired by the Holy Father as a powerful sign of the Jubilee Year which, by its nature, is a time of conversion."
"Consequently, the liturgy of request for pardon from God for the sins committed by Christians over the centuries is not only legitimate, but the most appropriate form to express penance and to obtain purification." Bishop Marini listed the admissions of fault already made by Pope Paul VI and, on various occasions, by John Paul II during his pontificate:
Paul VI (1964): Confession of faults in general: purification of memory and commitment to true conversion.
John Paul II:
1. Faults committed in the service of truth: intolerance and violence against dissidents, wars of religion, violence and abuses of the crusades, coercive methods of the Inquisition.
2. Faults that have compromised the unity of the Body of Christ: excommunications, persecutions and divisions.
3. Faults committed in the area of relations with the people of the First Alliance, Israel: disdain, acts of hostility, silences.
4. Faults against love, peace, the rights of peoples, the respect of cultures and of other religions, committed in the course of evangelization.
5. Faults against human dignity and the unity of the human race: towards women, different races and ethnic groups.
6. Faults in the area of fundamental rights of individuals and against social justice: the downtrodden, the poor, the unborn, social and economic injustices, marginalization.