The Catholic Church, seeking to cleanse its conscience at the start of a new millennium, on Wednesday outlined a framework for seeking forgiveness for past errors without necessarily admitting responsibility for them.
   The long-awaited Vatican document, "Memory and Reconciliation," cited just a handful of areas where Pope John Paul II believed the church had erred, including its treatment of Jews, the Inquisition and enforced conversions.
   "We have mentioned a few errors, but we could have had a very long list, too long a list. I fear the list will never be finished," said Fr Jean-Louis Brugues, one of the experts who advised the papal commission that drew up the report.
   The report, which was written in Italian, is to be officially presented next week. The French language version came out ahead of time because of last-minute delays in the Vatican.
   Catholics around the world are due to mark a day of "Request for Forgiveness" on 12 March.
   "Memory and Reconciliation," prepared under the auspices of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, lays the ground work for that event, establishing for the first time a theological foundation for church leaders to repent of the sins of their predecessors.
   "The Christians of today are not responsible for the errors of the 19th or 16th century. We are not responsible for errors we did not commit," Brugues told a news conference.
   "We have had to find a way to liberate and purify memory without talking about responsibility," he added.
   The document, which was laden with quotations from past papal pronouncements, defines three types of forgiveness and makes clear that asking pardon does not necessarily imply guilt.
Reuters 2/3/00

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