By AT News Team, June 23, 2015: Pope Francis asked forgiveness from the Waldensian Evangelical Church yesterday in a meeting with representatives of the Protestant group in Turin, Italy. It was “the first time a Pope had visited a Waldensian house of worship,” reported Vatican Radio.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church specifically mentioned “violence and disputes committed in the name of the faith itself.” This history “can only grieve us,” the Pope stated, and cause us “to recognize that we are all sinners. … He then asked for forgiveness for ‘the non-Christian attitudes and behavior’ of the Catholic Church against Waldensians,” according to Vatican Radio.
During Medieval times the Catholic Church persecuted the Waldensians because they refused to recognize the spiritual authority of the popes and insisted that the Bible teaches a number of different doctrines than those taught by the Catholic Church. It is one of the only non-Catholic Christian communities native to Italy.
Chapter 4 in The Great Controversy, an important book by Ellen G. White, one of the cofounders of the Adventist movement, describes the history of “The Waldenses” or “Vaudois churches” of what is today northern Italy and adjacent parts of Switzerland and France. “In their purity and simplicity,” White wrote, they “resembled the church of apostolic times. Rejecting the supremacy of the pope and prelate, they held the Bible as the only supreme, infallible authority.” The foundational doctrine of the Adventist denomination today is “sola scriptura,” to use the traditional Latin phrase for the Protestant theological principle of “the Bible alone.”
The Waldensian denomination today has about 30,000 adherents in Italy with its headquarters in Turin where Pope Francis met with the group of leaders. Relations between the Waldensians and Catholics is currently one based on “mutual respect and fraternal charity,” he said. The two faiths provide for joint celebration of mixed marriages among their members and collaborated in recent years in a translation of the Bible that both accept. They work together in humanitarian service projects.
The visit and the Pope’s apology could be reason “to add an element to our presenting church history in regards to the Waldensian church and the role of the Roman Catholic Church,” Pastor Herbert Bodenmann, director of the Adventist Press Service in Basel, Switzerland, told Adventist Today. “In the future we should at least mention this request of the Pope in 2015 for forgiveness for the persecution in the middle ages.” He pointed out that the Waldensian Church has accepted the Pope’s apology.