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ii. The Highs and Lows of History

The history of the Church echoes the strengths and weaknesses of that first generation: Peter, who deserted Jesus, but then died in his service; Judas, bent by greed an treachery; women like Martha and Mary, close personal friends, and Mary Magdalene, once healed by Jesus then becoming his fearless witness. In the dark 8-9th centuries and the high Middle Ages (14-15th centuries) there were times when corruption and unworthy popes could so easily have riven the Church apart, surviving only by the grace of God. Even in the last seventy years the Church has been shaken by many who while professing to be carers and teachers have sexually and violently abused the young and vulnerable. 

On the other side of the ledger we find great saintly figures, mystics and teachers such as Benedict, Francis, Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila. Our own times have witnessed great leaders such as popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Religious orders have emerged, to teach, to tend the sick and to be living symbols of Jesus’ commitment to all who come to them in pain and brokenness.

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