From The Vatican Information Service:
"In public opinion," writes the Pope, "the image of the Inquisition represents in some way the symbol of this counter-witness and scandal. In what measure is this image faithful to reality? Before asking for forgiveness, it is necessary to know exactly what are the facts and to recognize the shortcomings with respect to the evangelical needs in appropriate cases. This is why the Committee referred to historians whose scientific competence is universally recognized."
John Paul II recalls that on March 12, 2000, a Day of Forgiveness was celebrated and forgiveness was asked "for the errors committed in the service of the truth when unethical methods were used." This petition for forgiveness "is also valid for the drama related to the Inquisition as well as the wounds that are its consequence. ... This volume," he concludes, "is written in the spirit of this petition for forgiveness."
Cardinal Cottier indicated that the fact that the volume has been published so late is not due "to opposition to its publication. I would like to make that clear. The delay is due to a series of health problems."
Referring to the symposium, in which thirty speakers and experts from Italy, France, Portugal, Malta, England, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, the United States and Canada participated, Prof. Borromeo said they discussed "the events that led to the Inquisition in the 13th century, the activity in the main places in which heresy flourished (especially France and Italy) and its procedures. When dealing with the modern history of this institution," added Borromeo, "the reports were divided into two categories. One was predominantly geographic (Spain and Portugal with their respective imperial colonies; Italy, with special reference to the Congregation of the Holy Office, the Netherlands and England). The other was mainly thematic: (the repression of the heresies with Jewish and Islamic tendencies, Protestantism and witchcraft were discussed, as well as the battle against circulating prohibited literary and scientific books and Bibles in the vernacular and the historical context in which the abolition of courts took place)."
The acts of the symposium, said Borromeo, "are a point of reference for studies on the Inquisition; in the first place, for the scientific rigor of the reports, exempt from controversy or an apologetic nature which is typical of recent historiography; in the second place, for the richness of the information laid out which allows us to look at many places so widespread among non-specialists (the use of torture and the death penalty were not as frequent as once believed); in the third place, due to the amplitude of the volume, it is a reason to hope that intellectual debate on the theme is sparked and that there is stimulus for new research."