In a message sent to the participants of a congress organized by the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Pope Leo XIII, Pope John Paul II renewed his wish of bringing to light the truth about the Catholic Church’s history.
“Like Leo XIII, I too am personally convinced that bringing to light the full truth about the 2,000 years of Church history, through science, benefits her,” the Holy Father writes in the message.
“Historians are asked not only to scrupulously apply all the instruments of historic methodology, but they are also asked to pay conscious attention to the scientific ethic that must always distinguish their research.”
Therefore, they cannot “be accusers or judges of the past, but they must attempt to patiently understand each event with the maximum depth and amplitude, in order to delineate a historic context as close as possible to the truth of the facts.”
After emphasizing that in the past years he has spoken about the “need to ‘purify the memory’ which is an indispensable premise for an international order of peace,” John Paul II affirms that those who research the roots of conflicts discover that the negative consequences of events in the past continue to be present.
“Frequently, these ‘contaminated’ memories have become integral elements of the national identity, and in some cases, even of the religious identity. This is why we must renounce any manipulation of the truth.”
“The historian's love for his own people, community, even religious community, must not compete with the rigor for scientifically prepared truth. It is from here that the process of purifying the memory begins,” the Pope also writes.
“This effort to purify one's memory entails for individuals as well as peoples the recognition of errors for which they must ask forgiveness,” the letter also says.
“This sometimes requires much courage and self-denial. However, it is the only way that social and national groups, freed from the remnants of old resentment, can come together with fraternal and reciprocal loyalty in order to build a better future for all,” the Pontiff concludes.