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Pope Francis Asks Protestants for Forgiveness for Catholic Mistakes

Pope Francis, prison
Pope Francis blesses an inmate as he meets with prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. |

Roman Catholic Church leader Pope Francis has asked Christians of other traditions to forgive Catholics who have offended them in the past, and called on Catholics to offer the same in return.

"As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values," Francis said at the closing Vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Basilica of St. Paul earlier this week.

"At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships."

The pontiff, who has often preached about the need for Christians to be united, began his homily with the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9:

"I am the least of the Apostles … because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me was not without effect."

The pope talked at length about the nature of forgiveness, and said:

"Beyond the differences which still separate us, we recognise with joy that at the origin of our Christian life there is always a call from God Himself. We can make progress on the path to full visible communion between us Christians not only when we come closer to each other, but above all as we convert ourselves to the Lord, who through His grace, chooses and calls us to be His disciples," he continued.

"When Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they make important steps towards unity. It is not only the call which unites us, but we also share the same mission to proclaim to all the marvelous works of God."

Back in July 2014, Francis became the first pope to officially visit a Pentecostal church, where he again apologized for persecution of Pentecostals by the Catholic church, and reached out with friendship to Evangelicals.

"Among those who persecuted and denounced Pentecostals, almost as if they were crazy people trying to ruin the race, there were also Catholics," Francis said during his historic visit to the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in the southern city of Caserta, Italy.

"Someone will be surprised: 'The pope went to visit the Evangelicals?' But he went to see his brothers," he added.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that Francis also met with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Tuesday, and the two sat down to discuss "problems afflicting the Middle East."

The Vatican did not release specifics of the discussion, but said in a statement: "The parties highlighted the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace."

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