Vatican unveils study on the Inquisition

 A study of the Inquisition, based on the work of an international symposium that took place in October 1998, was presented at the Vatican yesterday, by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Jean-Louis Tauran, archivist and librarian, George Cottier, OP, pro-theologian of the Pontifical Household, and Professor Agostino Borromeo, from Rome's Sapienza University who oversaw the volume. The 783-page study is said to reveal statistics and other data that contradict long-held cliches about the Inquisition. During the press conference Cardinal Etchegaray read a message that the Pope wrote to him in which he said: "As the second millennium of Christianity comes to an end, it is appropriate that the Church assumes a greater awareness of the sins of its sons and daughters when recalling the circumstances in which, throughout history, they deviated from the spirit of Christ and His Gospel, offering to the world the spectacle of ways of thinking and acting that were true forms of 'counter-witness and scandal', instead of witness to a life inspired by the values of faith." The Pope wrote: "In public opinion, the image of the Inquisition represents in some way the symbol of this counter-witness and scandal. In what measure is this image faithful to reality? Before asking for forgiveness, it is necessary to know exactly what are the facts and to recognize the shortcomings with respect to the evangelical needs in appropriate cases. This is why the Committee referred to historians whose scientific competence is universally recognized." On March 12, 2000, a Day of Forgiveness was celebrated and forgiveness was asked "for the errors committed in the service of the truth when unethical methods were used." This petition for forgiveness "is also valid for the drama related to the Inquisition as well as the wounds that are its consequence. ... This volume," he concludes, "is written in the spirit of this petition for forgiveness." Thirty speakers and experts from Italy, France, Portugal, Malta, England, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, the United States and Canada took part in the symposium. Speaking at the press conference Professor Borromeo said: "The recourse to torture and the death sentence weren't so frequent as it long has been believed.'' He said that while there were some 125,000 trials of suspected heretics in Spain, researchers found that about one percent of the defendants were executed. In Portugal, 5.7 percent of the more than 13,000 people tried before church tribunals in the 16th and early 17th century were condemned to death. In many cases, courts ordered mannequins to be burned when the condemned escaped capture. Many of the executions during the centuries spanned by the Inquisition were carried out by non-church tribunals - including witch hunts in Protestant countries, Borromeo said. He said he hoped the study would encourage further research. Source: VIS

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