MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - More than 1,600 pagans and their supporters have signed a letter to Pope John Paul II calling for the inclusion of pagans in any Vatican apology for the Inquisition.

Released by the Montgomery-based Pagans in Action: Council for Truth, a coalition of pagan groups worldwide, the letter accuses the Roman Catholic Church of forcing pagans to convert, of desecrating their sacred sites, of spreading propaganda about pagan beliefs and practices, and of collaborating with the state in persecuting and executing pagans during the Inquisition, which began in the 13th century as a tribunal charged with combating heresy.

The letter was prompted by the Pope's 1998 announcement that he will ask forgiveness for some of the church's sins, including the Inquisition.

The pagans, who describe themselves as "a global spiritual movement that draws its inspiration and traditions from indigenous pre-Christian religions," have asked to be remembered along with Protestants, Jews, and Muslims who were persecuted.

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