The Faults of the Church - Letter of the Bishops of Lithuania

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Bishops of Lithuania

Lituania       15/04/2000

In the year 2000 the whole world is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is the year of the Great Jubilee, a time of special grace. However, that grace of Redemption is acceptable to us only after sincere repentance and the resolution not to fall again into the same errors. The Church is faithful to the mission confided to it by her Lord; nevertheless, because of the weakness of its members, it it has not been able to avoid error. It is precisely for these faults that the church wishes to express her repentance and in this way purify her memory. The Holy Father was the first to give us an example of this last Mar. 12, and during a celebration of repentance asked pardon for the faults of Catholics in the past.
We, the Bishops of Lithuania, in communion with the Holy Father and the whole Church, profiting by the grace for the Jubilee Year, a gift of God, decree a day of repentance and pardon. On this occasion we wish to mention several faults of the past.
We express regret for the unworthy means which the children of the Church have sometimes used to defend the faith and to spread it, forgetting that God is love and that it is only through love that the nations can be guided toward the truth. In the past, force and hatred were used, in contradiction to the teachings of the Church, and thus became a burden to the memory of the church.
We regret that in past centuries the Church allowed itself to become involved in national conflicts and did not react adequately when national pride was placed before Gospel values. The Church's memory bears the burden of militant nationalists who relied on religious sentiment to mutually destroy one another.
We are pained that, during World War II, some of the Church's members were lacking in their duty of love toward the persecuted Jews, that they did not exhaust all possibilities to defend them, and above all, that they were not determined to stop the followers of Hitler. The Church's memory bears the burden of all manifestations of anti-Semitism in the past and the present which support people in irresponsible actions and lack of Christian love.
We regret that members of the Church, through weakness, fear or desire for gain, supported criminal regimes of occupation. They failed in their religious, moral and patriotic duty. They helped the oppressors. The memory of the Church is burdened by the thought of those lay people and clergy who collaborated with the occupying forces, oppressors of the Church and country.
We ask pardon for those members of the church who, in spite of the Gospel command to serve and to share with the poorest, lacked sensitivity in the face of destitution and misery and the absence of social justice. The Church's memory is weighed down with the unheeded tears of the oppressed.
We also regret that some members of the Church have lacked respect for unborn human life, thus causing great harm to the nation and the Church. This blood was shed with the consent and by the hands of members of the Church.
May the confession of these faults awaken our Christian conscience. We must avoid similar failings in the world today in which people are encouraged to engage in an increasing number of compromises. While asking pardon for the faults of the members of the Church, we pardon them. While regretting the faults committed in the past and in the present, we hope that the Jubilee Year will be a year of renewal and sanctification. May the 100 years before us be a century of peace, unity, collective responsibility and of Christian love!

Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, President
Msgr. Jonas Boratu, Secretary General
The Bishops' Conference of Lithuani

* SIDIC has translated this statement from Polish and French

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