“On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask forgiveness for the un-Christian, and even inhuman, attitudes and behaviour we have had against you,” he said during the first-ever papal visit to the Waldensian temple in Turin city, an important business and cultural centre in northern Italy.
“In the name of Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us,” he added.
The small Waldensian church’s founder and leader, a 12th-century French merchant Peter Waldo, was excommunicated and his followers branded as heretics during the Middle Ages.
Waldo, a clothier from Lyon, gave up his wealth to spread a Gospel of simplicity and poverty, strongly condemning of Papal excesses and Catholic dogmas.
There are around 45,000 Waldensians worldwide today, most of whom are in Italy, Argentina and Uruguay.