Pope Francis apologizes for empty apologies

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Pope Francis speaks to journalists

Pope Francis speaks to journalists on his flight back to Rome on June 26, 2016, following a visit at Armenia. Photo via Tiziana Fabi/Pool/REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (RNS) “After many hours of prayer and various consultations, I’ve realized that mere apologies do not constitute appropriate repentance for the Catholic Church’s many sins,” Pope Francis told reporters aboard his plane today. “I apologize for all of my apologies.”

The sweeping apology comes just days after the Pope issued a string of spontaneous apologies: “I think that the Church not only should apologize … to a gay person whom it offended, but it must also apologize to the poor as well, to the women who have been exploited, to children who have been exploited by (being forced to) work. It must apologize for having blessed so many weapons.” These apologies follow Pope John Paul II’s apologies in 2000 for “the persecution of Galileo, for the Crusades, for burning people it deemed heretics, for its involvement in slavery and for its silence and inaction during the Holocaust, among others.”

Francis recognized how many apologies had been issued, but said this apology would be the apology to end all apologies. He promised “real, substantive, concrete changes to official policy” would be forthcoming, but did not offer any details. He quickly apologized for the lack of specifics.

Conservative Catholics were quick to criticize the Pope and apologize for him apologizing for his apologies. Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan said, “I’ve never apologized to anyone in my life, certainly not oppressed groups in the church. Francis opened a can of worms that he just can’t shut. The Catholic Church in the U.S. prefers to keep its dirty laundry out of public view.”

Many LGBTQ Catholics meanwhile welcomed the apology for the apologies with cautious optimism. DignityUSA, a group of LGBTQ Catholics, said in a statement “saying sorry for just saying sorry is an important second step that somewhat corrects the failed first step. We expect the third step in this process to be more substance than sorry.”

The reform-minded Bishop of Rome reiterated at the end of his remarks that his regrets would end soon, saying “I’m sorry for all the times I’ve just said sorry, but this will be the last time we just say ‘sorry.’ This is the final response that’s solely ‘sorry.’ And I’m truly sorry for all the previous empty sorrys.”