Monday, June 22, 2015

Pope Francis asks the Waldensians for forgiveness

We already had an idea that this Pope is cool. Here is further confirmation: he has gone to meet the Protestant sect of the Waldensians and asked them for forgiveness for the persecutions of the Catholic Church.

Who are the Waldensians? They were a Christian group that broke away from the mainstream in the Middle Ages, led by Waldo, a contemporary of St. Francis (from whom the present Pope got his name.) When the Reformation came about, the "heretical" Waldensians joined them. They clustered in northwestern Italy, in the Piemonte region. They were immortalized in a sublime sonnet by the English poet John Milton, which bears rereading. It is called "On the late massacre in Piedmont" -

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
     Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
     Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,
Forget not:  in thy book record their groans
     Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
     Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks.  Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
     To heaven.  Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
     The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow
     A hundredfold, who, having learnt thy way,
     Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

Milton was justifiably outraged. Pope Francis has now become the first Pope in history to enter a Waldensian church, where he was greeted with the words: "Welcome, brother Francis." Read about it here (in Italian.)