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Wicca, a Neopagan religion


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A group of Neopagans from around the world sent a message to Pope John Paul II on 2000-JAN-1, requesting that he include Pagans in his proposed apology.

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Pope acknowledges sins of the Church:

In October 1998, in preparation for the Millennium, Pope John Paul II, the spiritual leader of about one billion Christian Roman Catholics, indicated that he and the Vatican are reviewing past Church sins and preparing a global apology statement:

On 1998-NOV-06, JTA mentioned in an article that Pope John Paul II has indicated that the Vatican may ask forgiveness for the Inquisition as part of a policy of self-searching as the Christian millennium approaches.

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Since ca 395 AD, with the Codex Theodosius, Pagans have been persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church as it became the dominant religion.

Forced conversions to Christianity, torture and death of resisters, destruction of Pagan property, sacred sites, symbols, wealth, literature, etc. - as well as Christianizations (Christian claiming of Pagan property, symbols, celebrations) -- are some of the persecutions that Pagans have suffered at the hands of the Church.

The Inquisition in particular targeted Witches and those accused of Witchcraft with such vehemence that the term "Witch Hunt" has become synonymous with both religious and political persecution. 

Anti-Pagan and anti-Witchcraft propaganda produced by the Inquisition continues to negatively influence how Pagans and Witches are perceived by the public today.

Although Witches, Wiccans, and others who are part of contemporary Paganism do not worship the devil and do not engage in malevolent spiritual activities, false stereotypes about this, which are rooted in Inquisition  anti-Witch propaganda persist. 

Currently, modern Paganism is one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the United States, Australia and Great Britain.

In a spirit of great humility and contrition, Pope John Paul II has been reaching out to former religious enemies -- Jews, Muslims, Protestants, etc. -- to establish agreements and accommodation; but he has so far failed to include Pagans in any way.

Pope John Paul II, in his recent trip to India and meeting with non-Catholic religious leaders, has also been talking about freedom of religion as a right and quoting Mahatma Gandhi on non-exclusivity of religion. 

Pagan leaders wish to stabilize relations with all religions and work for religious freedom and cooperation for all.

With the Vatican's promised millennium apology, Pagan leaders thought this would be an opportune time to address Pope John Paul II, and the Roman Catholic Curia, about Pagan concerns and Catholic anti-Pagan intolerance.

This letter contains signatures of 238 Pagan leaders, 88 Pagan organizations, 14 Christian Clergy, 41 academic scholars, and 1,256 other members of the worldwide Pagan community, as well as other non-Pagan sympathizers.

It has been translated into Polish, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Estonian, Russian, Norwegian and Japanese.

For more information, see: 


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The text of the letter to Pope John Paul II

Pagans in Action: Council for Truth
1373 Dunbarton Road
Montgomery, AL 36117

Samhain (October 31), 1999

His Holiness, Pope John Paul II
Vatican City

Your Holiness:

The signatories to this letter have become aware that your advisors in the Vatican are working on a formal Apology to the Protestant Christians, Jews and Muslims for the persecution these groups suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church during the centuries of the Inquisition. It is our understanding that you will formally present this Apology at the opening of the Holy Year 2000 Grand Jubilee, following a penitential procession from the Basilica of Santa Sabina to Rome's Circus Maximus, where you will call for forgiveness for the historic failings of the Church. This is a brave and laudable effort, heralding the beginning of a great healing between the Catholic Church and the groups that have, historically, been persecuted in its name.

We note however, that early news releases concerning this event have not indicated that those accused of being Witches, and those indigenous (i.e. "Pagan") peoples who were forcibly converted by the Church will be included in your apology. This letter is a formal request for that omission to be rectified. As leaders of the contemporary Pagan/Wiccan community, we sincerely hope that Your Holiness will lead the way to mutual respect for all religions and spiritual paths by including all those who suffered from the tragedy of the Inquisition.

Modern Pagans, including many identified as Witches and Druids, comprise a global spiritual movement that draws its inspiration and traditions from  indigenous pre-Christian religions. In the name of our spiritual ancestors who suffered persecution during the Inquisition, we respectfully request inclusion of Pagans and Witches in your Apology Address.

Sincerely Yours,

[1,639 Signatories]

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bullet Ellen Evert Hopman, MA, USA
bullet Rev. Selena Fox, Madison, WI, USA
bullet Rev. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, Petaluma, CA, USA
bullet Rev. Norna Kat Steingraber, Montgomery, AL, USA
bullet Mary Bowerman, Dallas/Ft., Worth, TX, USA
bullet Rev. Bill Kilborn, Melbourne, FL, USA
bullet Elizabeth Barrette, Charleston, IL, USA
bullet Chel Bardell, New South Wales, Australia
bullet Pamela Fletcher; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
bullet Andy Norfolk, Cornwall, UK

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Papal response:

We have been unable to locate any direct response by the Pope to this request. However, he did issue a statement of apology in 2000-MAR. According to Reuters, it "outlined a framework for seeking forgiveness for past errors without necessarily admitting responsibility for them." 1 It contained no specific references to past events. Since Catholic theology teaches that the church itself is spotless and free of error and sin, the church itself was absolved of any blame. He assigned responsibility for past evils on individual members of the Church. More details.

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  1. Crispian Balmer, "Catholic Church establishes forgiveness framework," Reuters, 2000-MAR-1. See:  

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Copyright 2000 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally coded: 2000-JAN-15
Latest update: 2007-FEB-08
Coder: B.A. Robinson

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