Christians need to make the first move in offering reconciliation and establishing peace, which includes accepting the blame for wrongdoings, Pope Benedict XVI said. “Today we must learn once again to be able to recognize guilt, we must shake off the illusion of being innocent,” the pope said Dec. 21 in his annual pre-Christmas address to the Roman Curia and cardinals who reside in Rome.

“We must learn the ability to do penance, to let ourselves be transformed; to meet the other and let God give us the courage and strength for such renewal,” he said. The pope introduced the theme of reconciliation in his remarks looking back on the Synod of Bishops for Africa in October, which was dedicated to the church’s role in fostering reconciliation, justice and peace. The pope made no mention of his recent meeting with top officials of the Irish Catholic church concerning the handling of clerical sex abuse cases and his plan to write a special pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, which was likely to include the suggestion of public services of repentance for Irish bishops and priests. In promoting peace and reconciliation, he said, Christians must take their example from Christ, who freely became human and died for the sins of all.