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The tolerance of John XXIII

This article on religious tolerance, from Sunday's New York Times, describes how Pope John XXIII, one of two men (the other being John Courtney Murray) responsible for forging a new, Catholic vision of religious tolerance, listened from his death bed as his secretary read to him "from mountains of sympathetic letters." One letter read, " 'Insofar as an atheist can pray, I'm praying for you.' "

John XXIII died in 1963. It was only recently that Catholics officially espoused religious tolerance, and only 36 years ago (at the close of the Second Vatican Council) that, the Times writes, "the Vatican ... first blessed tolerance as a civic virtue."

Not much of a track record. (Not that Catholic tolerance is by any means the only standard; it is, however, probably the most significant one as far as Western history is concerned.) As obvious a virtue as tolerance is, it is nonetheless hard to condemn others for not yet arriving at it. We may lament the intolerance and hatred of certain Islamist movements, but we must not forget that the tolerance of which we are so proud was hard won, and fostered only by the works of truly remarkable men. We must not slight the obstacles standing before other cultures that we might wish to follow suit.

February 7, 2002 1:11 AM


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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer


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