The leader of Portugal's Roman Catholics has issued a public apology to the local Jewish community for the suffering imposed on it by the Catholic Church, which in the 16th century supported an inquisition that expelled countless Jews or forced them to convert to Christianity.

As an international religious gathering—Oceans of Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue—closed in the capital, Lisbon, on September 26, Dom Jose Policarpo, the Catholic Patriarch of Lisbon, expressed his church's regrets to the Portuguese Jewish community.

Speaking in the center of Lisbon, at the place where the inquisition once held its hearings, the patriarch apologized for his church's actions. After reading a short declaration of guilt and repentance, Dom Jose Policarpo embraced three Jewish rabbis and other representatives of the nation's Jewish community.

"This historical center of Lisbon, where today we embrace in friendship, has in the past been the stage for intolerable acts of violence against the Hebrew people," the patriarch said. He added that the church should not forget "the pressures [on Jews] to convert, the popular uprisings, the suspicions, the denunciations, the process of the Inquisition.

"As the major community in this city for close on 1,000 years, the Catholic Church recognizes that her memory is deeply stained by these words and deeds, so often carried out in her name, which are unworthy of human dignity and of the Gospel she proclaims."

Oceans of Peace, the thirteenth inter-religious event organized by Rome's St. Egidio community, brought 142 official participants to Lisbon's Belem Cultural Center. Panel discussions, prayer services and other events were open to the public, attracting about 2,000 people. The meeting was jointly ...

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