Pilgrim's progress

A biblical flood of ink has been spilled trying to assess the significance of John Paul II’s recent actions. During Mass on the first Sunday of Lent, the pope made an unprecedented apology for the historical sins committed by Catholics. He asked God’s forgiveness for sins against the unity of Christianity, against women, against the people of Israel, and for the use of violence in the "service of truth," by which he meant the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the conquest of the New World. The sinners implicated included those who acted in the church’s name. Nine days later, John Paul began a dramatic weeklong pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. Deftly balancing the religious and political ramifications of his visit, he impressed Israelis and Palestinians with the sincerity of his good will, while giving hope and affirmation to those in the occupied territories by voicing support for a Palestinian homeland. For Catholics, the pope’s pilgrimage emphasized again the moral and religious importance John Paul places on reconciliation with Jews, whose covenant with God abides. Taking that work of reconciliation to the Holy Land and to the reconstituted nation of Israel obviously had profound meaning for John Paul. But above all, the pope went to where the story of the New Testament unfolds so that his every action could be placed in the context of his faith that "God’s interventions...culminate in...

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