Every now and then, a surprising figure arises, inspired by a fuller understanding of Christ's love and willingly confronts the fierce opposition of complacency, with the hope to initiate a resiliency of love for all people, ending all forms of hatred.
(Pope John Paul II & Princess Diana)
Pope John Paul II was one of these figures, who in an unprecedented gesture of humility, in 1992, publically apologized to Galileo for the Vatican’s error and declared him “not guilty,” 359 years later.
Pope John Paul II’s purpose for this gesture was to stress that the Church does not reject scientific progress and is not opposed to the free search of truth. (ENCYCLICAL LETTER FIDES ET RATIO OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND REASON) Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 14 September, the Feast of the Triumpph of the Cross, in the year 1998, the of my Pontificate.
He stressed that there are no irreconcilable differences between science and religion, stating “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” (LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II TO REVEREND GEORGE V. COYNE, S.J., DIRECTOR OF THE VATICAN OBSERVATORY) From the Vatican, 1 June, 1988.
IOANNES PAULUS PP. II
In 2000, Pope John Paul II’s unwavering persistence to right the wrongs of the Church in the past, and despite the resistance from inside the Vatican, he proved to be unstoppable. On March 12, 2000, he made a public apology, asking forgiveness from God for sins committed by the Church, against groups of people, “We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions." Pope John Paul II pleaded for the hope that “Never again,” would the Church repeat these kinds of violence. (Rory Carroll)
Pope John Paul II began a process of removing the blindness of Church authorities caused by years of arrogance; he was replacing it with humility to open new ways to understanding and unity. This unprecedented act of humility, his public apology for the Church’s past sins, rekindles a sense of hope, in the Church. It was similar to the way Pope John XXIII, inspired hope by his words calling for the Second Vatican Council, 1962, "I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in." These unprecedented public acts made by world church leaders generates hope, which should not be dismissed too readily because the light of hope does not shine yet in all areas of human life. It is the work of hope to keep it alive, giving it birth in areas where hope has yet to shine.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII, named Man of the Year in 1963 by Time magazine, opened the Second Vatican Council with the intention of internal renewal of the global Roman Catholic church.