Pr. Eugenio Bernardini
Pope Francis recently met with Waldensian pastor Eugenio Bernardini and spoke in a local Waldensian church. He apologized for the actions of Catholics made against Waldensians centuries ago and asked for forgiveness. I understand why he did this, as it would help people understand the Church does not call for violence against people for simply disagreeing with the Church. I’d be more focused on calling them to revert to the Church than apologizing for something that happened hundreds of years ago.
The Waldensians were founded by Peter Waldo in the 12th century. They did not like how they saw many bishops ruled more like princes than bishops and they called for apostolic poverty. It was initially heavily influenced by the mendicant orders of the Catholic Church, but over time Waldo espoused heresy and drifted from the Church. The Waldensians were known for spreading malicious rumors about the pope and the bishops such as all bishops and the pope being corrupt, that the papacy was the Antichrist, that the Church worshipped idols, that transubstantiation and Purgatory were Antichrist inventions and that the Church was the great harlot.
Initially Alexander III invited Waldo and one of his followers to discuss their concerns. The Third Lateran Council rejected Waldo’s beliefs in a universal priesthood and liturgy only in the vernacular and poverty of all believers. In spite of this, however, the Waldensians were not yet excommunicated. Two decades after his meeting with the pope, Waldo and his followers were excommunicated after they were warned multiple times not to teach against Church doctrine and they repeatedly refused. This was a decade after Lucius III formerly declared the Waldensians to be an heretical sect at the Synod of Verona.
Between this timeframe, numerous violent attacks were made against the Waldensians. In the end, this probably only fueled their belief that the Church was the great harlot due to some alleged draconian acts committed against them. So, I wouldn’t exactly say the Pope’s apology and request for forgiveness were wrong; he does see this as a means of drawing them closer to the Church, but in a day where the Church is losing many Catholics to various ideologies, she needs the pope and others to call for more missionary work, especially on the part of missions, and to give more support to missions for evangelization so that we may bring more into the Church, whether they be Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, or non-Christian. You can read the article here.