On March 12, 2000, during a very public Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope celebrated a Day of Pardon, asking God's forgiveness for the sins of Catholics against seven groups of people: those persecuted in the service of the truth; Christian unity; the Jewish people; sins against "love, peace, the rights of people, and respect for cultures and religions"; the dignity of women and the unity of the human race; fundamental human rights; plus sins in general.
In his homily Pope John Paul II described "purification of memory" as an element of this Great Jubilee Year. "The Church," he said, "strong in the holiness which it has received from the Lord, kneels before God and begs forgiveness for the past and present sins of its children."
Pope John Paul II set the stage for this event in his 1994 apostolic letter On the Coming Third Millennium.
In it he wrote, "It is appropriate that, as the Second Millennium of Christianity draws to a close, the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling all those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel and, instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter-witness and scandal" (#33).