VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Understanding the roots of past conflicts can help Catholics and Mennonites heal their relationship and move toward a common witness of faith in Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said. "Since it is Christ himself who calls us to seek Christian unity, it is entirely right and fitting that Mennonites and Catholics have entered into dialogue in order to understand the reasons for the conflict that arose between us in the 16th century," the pope said during an Oct. 19 meeting with leaders of the Mennonite World Conference. "To understand is to take the first step toward healing," Pope Benedict said. The Mennonites are a branch of the Reformation movement known as Anabaptists because they rejected infant baptism and insisted adults be baptized as a public confession of faith. In the 16th century, thousands of Anabaptists were declared heretics and put to death by some European Catholic governments, such as the Habsburgs in the Netherlands and the Tirol region and the dukes of Bavaria, as well as by Protestant governments in Germany and Switzerland.