From ........ Associated Press

November 14, 1994

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II says his church must mark the year 2000 by owning up to the sins of Roman Catholics over the centuries, including religious intolerance and acquiescence in human rights abuses.

John Paul's views, set down in a letter released Monday, appeared to be a major step toward meeting critics' demands for a self-examination of Church errors as it approaches its third millennium, which it considers as beginning in 2000.

John Paul said the Church must express "profound regret for the weakness of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face."

The pope stopped short of citing particular abuses or of blaming the Church as such.

But he appeared to be calling for Catholics to reflect on periods such as the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazi Holocaust that have led critics to question the Church's conduct.

The 74-year-old John Paul also expressed a wish to lead a pilgrimage to the holy places in the Middle East in 2000, a sign he doesn't view his papacy as slowing down as some have suggested because of recent illness.

Some critics have said the Vatican should fully acknowledge abuses in the name of religion such as the Inquisition. Critics have also accused the Church of failing to use its full moral authority to prevent the extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis, a charge the Vatican has always denied.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, presenting the 71-page letter at a Vatican news conference, would not go beyond the pope's wording but said he expected clarifications before celebrations marking the new millennium.

Referring to a "painful chapter of history," the pope mentioned the "acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth."

Later, referring to modern times, John Paul asked, "how can we not lament the lack of discernment, which at times became even acquiescence, shown by many Christians concerning the violation of fundamental rights by totalitarian regimes?"

John Paul also called for a major push for closer relations with other Christian denominations and for meetings with non-Christians.