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(AGI) Turin, June 22 - Pope Francis has become the first popeto visit a Waldensian temple. During his Apostolic Visit toTurin on Monday, he said the Catholic Church sought forgivenessfor past sins against Waldensians. Like Francis of Assisi, thefounder of the Waldensians, Peter Waldo, a 12th centurymerchant from Lyons, gave up his wealth to preach the Gospel tothe poor. Archbishop Guichard of Lyons had, however, not sharedBishop Guido of Assisi's prophetic vision. The bishop of Assisicovered the Poor Man of Assisi with his liturgical robes, whileGuichard urged Waldo and his followers, known as the Poor ofLyons, to abstain from any form of preaching and explanation ofthe Scriptures, but Waldo refused. Pope Innocent III, whoreceived the mendicant friars and their founder at the LateranCouncil, excommunicated Waldo and his followers, who were ofthe same mind as their leader. This led to six centuries ofbloody persecutions, which became even fiercer after theLutheran Reformation, and were only brought to a close with theAlbertine Statute of 1848. In 1665, a huge number ofWaldensians were killed by Catholic forces commanded by theDuke of Savoy. Meanwhile, the Huguenots were being massacred inFrance on the orders of Francesco I and Charles IX, with moreor less the explicit benediction of Pope Saint Pius V. "Onbehalf of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness for theun-Christian and even inhumane positions and actions takenagainst you historically", said the Pope. "In the name of theLord Jesus Christ, forgive us!" Reflecting on the historicviolence committed in the name of faith, the pontiff added thathe had asked God to give us the grace "to recognise that we areall sinners and to know to forgive one another." Pope Francishad made a similar plea for pardon last year, when visiting thePentecostal church in Caserta, referring to the Fascistdiscrimination while racial laws were in force. In his welcomespeech, Eugenio Bernardini, the Moderator of the WaldensianChurch, asked the Pope to recognise the Waldensians as aChurch, saying that they did not understand the VaticanCouncil's description of them as "communities" and not"churches". Did it mean that they were only half a Church?While they understood the reasons, it would be good if thesecould be put aside by 2017 or even earlier. They were a Church,sinners undoubtedly, but a Church of Christ, judged and savedby Him. (AGI).