73 – Many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America. The bicentennial of Latin America’s cry for independence commemorates a cry which arose from being conscious of a lack of freedom, of exploitation and despoliation of being subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.

‘What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun’ (Eccles 1:9). Those who lived the years previous to the commemoration of the 5th Centenary of the Discovery of America (1992) were perhaps not surprised with the words that Francis pronounced a few days ago in Ecuador and Bolivia. At that time, a so-called ‘indigenous movement’, one that opposed the evangelization and civilizing efforts of Spain and Portugal in the American continent ever since the year 1492, took shape with deceitful accusations against the Church of massacres and ambitious conquests. For several months, the centenary commemorations were disturbed by an uproar promoted by some mysterious indigenous protestors… mysterious above all due to the pale color of their skin that revealed to any observer that their origins among the much touted ‘native peoples’ were more than dubious…

This way of deforming the truth about the evangelization of America, at that time, seemed to be a preparation for something that increasing appears to be taking on voluminous proportions in the ‘Continent of Hope’: a curious adaptation of the same old communist jargon to the socio-economic conditions of Latin-America.

We wouldn’t wish to judge the intention of Francis’ statements – for perhaps he lacks a clear understanding of the History of America during the past 500 years, and has also perhaps not taken sufficient care to be well informed about the angelic customs (sic!) of the indigenous peoples prior to the discovery, thus also oblivious of their history in the preceeding centuries. Perhaps he also ignores the extensive labor that was undertaken by countless missionaries, often at the price of their own blood, especially Franciscans and Jesuits, his brethren in habit, in the vast American territory.

We merely wish to explain to Catholic brothers and sisters the benefits of this immense evangelizing effort just as it was praised throughout the centuries by the most authoritative voices of the Church.

Moreover, we would like to call to mind that, although the Church is formed – in its visible dimension – by members who can err, the Church Herself is holy and the Spotless Bride of Christ. So, just as one can’t attribute the errors of an individual to the institution to which he belongs, even less so can this be done regarding an Institution that is divine, as is the Holy Catholic Church.

Francis

Quote A

I think of those hushed words of Jesus during the Last Supper as more of a shout, a cry rising up from this Mass which we are celebrating in Bicentennial Park. Let us imagine this together. The bicentennial which this Park commemorates was that of Latin America’s cry for independence. It was a cry which arose from being conscious of a lack of freedom, of exploitation and despoliation, of being ‘subject to the passing whims of the powers that be’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 213). […] There was no shortage of conviction or strength in that cry for freedom which arose a little more than two hundred years ago. But history tells us that it only made headway once personal differences were set aside, together with the desire for power and the inability to appreciate other movements of liberation which were different yet not thereby opposed. (Homily, Holy Mass for the Evangelization of Peoples, Bicentennial Park, Quito Ecuador, July 7, 2015)

Quote B

Here I wish to bring up an important issue. Some may rightly say, ‘When the Pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church’. I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM, the Council of Latin American Bishops, has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church – I repeat what he said – ‘kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters’ (John Paul II. Bull Incarnationis Mysterium, November 30, 1998). I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America. Together with this request for forgiveness and in order to be just, I also would like us to remember the thousands of priests and bishops who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the Cross. There was sin, a great deal of it, for which we did not ask pardon.So for this, we ask forgiveness, I ask forgiveness. But here also, where there was sin, great sin, grace abounded through the men and women who defended the rights of indigenous peoples. (Address, Participation at the Second Meeting of Popular Movements, Expo Feria, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, July 9, 2015)

Quote C

We must recuperate them [indigenous cultures] with the correct hermeneutic, which facilitates this task. A hermeneutic that is not the same as was used at the time of the colonization. The hermeneutic of those days was one that sought the conversion of peoples, one that sought to fill up the Church…and therefore, indigenous independences were annulled. It was a kind of centralistic hermeneutic, whereby the empire that dominated was the one that in some way imposed its faith and its culture. It’s understandable that people thought like that in those days, but today a radically different hermeneutic is necessary. We need to interpret things in a different way: valuing each people, their culture, their language. […] Hermeneutics plays a central role. At this moment, I think it is important, with this greater awareness that we have regarding indigenous peoples, to support the expression and the culture of each one of them… (Dialogue with the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, October 24, 2016)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

I – Recognition by the Chair of St. Peter of the epic task of the evangelization of the Americas
II – Praises lavished by the Popes on the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal for the evangelization of America
III – The purpose of the evangelization in America: to bring divine life to the pagans and treat them as children of God
IV – The Popes were not silent about injustices. Condemnation under pain of excommunication to those who enslaved the peoples of the Americas
__________________________________________________________________

I – Recognition by the Chair of St. Peter of the epic task of the evangelization of the Americas

Alexander VI
– May the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, be introduced into those countries and islands

Adrian VI
– We order them to undertake such journeys and works

Leo XIII
– Hundreds of thousands were reborn to eternal life, since Columbus willed intensely to propagate the Gospel to new lands
– The principles of the Catholic religion were carried by the ships of Columbus

Pius XII
– Transformed from idolatrous peoples into devout children of the Spouse of Christ

John Paul II
– Overall positive evaluation of the labor of the first evangelizers – and a sentiment of vivid gratitude to the Lord
– Extending his arms of mercy and love, Christ embraces the New World in its entirety ever since the 12th of October 1492
– Five centuries ago, all of the inhabitants of these lands were called to be part of the Church
– The faith became a constitutive factor of the being and identity of the Americas – fruit of the blood of the martyrs
– America, open the doors wide to Christ! Let the seed planted five centuries ago give fruit in all the areas of your life
– In the baptismal waters you were born to a new life in the Mystical Body of Christ, common home to all who invoke God as Father
– How can we fail to give thanks for the seed planted by so many and such courageous missionaries!
– Through faith in Christ, God renewed his alliance with Latin America

Benedict XVI
– The priceless treasure of Latin America is faith in God – not a political ideology

CELAM
– The Glory of the Church consists in having undertaken the work of civilization so that the indigenous people were incorporated into the bosom of true civilization
– Faith in God who is Love and the Catholic tradition are the greatest wealth of America

Pius XII
– Universities inspired by the Church flourished in America – fruit of missionary work aided by the Catholic spirit of the legislation of the monarchs


II – Praises lavished by the Popes on the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal for the evangelization of America


Pius IX
– Spain was great because it founded its grandeur in propagating the Christian religion

Pius X
– Your nations have remained faithful to their faith and traditions

Pius XII
– Portugal: God used you as a precious instrument for admirable accomplishments

John Paul II
– Loving your past and purifying it, you will be faithful to yourselves
– Thank you Spain for your fidelity to the Gospel and to the Spouse of Christ! – due to your incomparable evangelizing activity the most numerous portion of the Church of Christ today prays to God in Spanish.


III – The purpose of the evangelization in America: to bring divine life to the pagans and treat them as children of God


Pius V
– Be attentive to redirect this people to pacific customs and civilized ways of life
– By the propagation of religion, your kingdom shall also be consolidated and augmented – and will be rewarded in this life and the next

John Paul II
– Men in whom pulsates concern for the weak, for the defenseless native
– Apostles that put themselves side by side with the indigenous populations – he who evangelizes also civilizes


IV – The Popes were not silent about injustices. Condemnation under pain of excommunication to those who enslaved the peoples of the Americas


Paul III
– Prohibition to rob or enslave the indigenous peoples

Urban VIII
– The defense of the Indians

Benedict XIV
– Efficacious defense of the Indians – we vigorously prohibit that they be deprived of liberty in any way
– Profound sorrow caused by those who still hinder the indigenous from embracing the faith by inhuman treatment – even after grave punishments and ecclesiastical censures
– Chastisement and grave punishments for those who behave toward the Indians in a manner contrary to Christian meekness and charity
– Excommunication latæ sententiæ for those who mistreat the Indians

John Paul II
– The Catholic Church: moved by the fidelity to the Spirit of Christ, an untiring defender of the Indians and protector of the values of their cultures


I – Recognition by the Chair of St. Peter of the epic task of the evangelization of the Americas


Alexander VI

May the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, be introduced into those countries and islands

Adrian VI

We order them to undertake such journeys and works

Leo XIII

Hundreds of thousands were reborn to eternal life, since Columbus willed intensely to propagate the Gospel to new lands
The principles of the Catholic religion were carried by the ships of Columbus

Pius XII

Transformed from idolatrous peoples into devout children of the Spouse of Christ

John Paul II

Overall positive evaluation of the labor of the first evangelizers – and a sentiment of vivid gratitude to the Lord
Extending his arms of mercy and love, Christ embraces the New World in its entirety ever since the 12th of October 1492
Five centuries ago, all of the inhabitants of these lands were called to be part of the Church
The faith became a constitutive factor of the being and identity of the Americas – fruit of the blood of the martyrs
America, open the doors wide to Christ! Let the seed planted five centuries ago give fruit in all the areas of your life
In the baptismal waters you were born to a new life in the Mystical Body of Christ, common home to all who invoke God as Father
How can we fail to give thanks for the seed planted by so many and such courageous missionaries!
Through faith in Christ, God renewed his alliance with Latin America

Benedict XVI

The priceless treasure of Latin America is faith in God - not a political ideology

CELAM – General Conference of the Latin American Hierarchy

The Glory of the Church consists in having undertaken the work of civilization so that the indigenous people were incorporated into the bosom of true civilization
Faith in God and the Catholic tradition are the greatest wealth of America

Pius XII

Universities inspired by the Church flourished in America – fruit of missionary work aided by the Catholic spirit of the legislation of the monarchs

II – Praises lavished by the Popes on the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal for the evangelization of America


Pius IX

Spain was great because it founded its grandeur in propagating the Christian religion

Pius X

Your nations have remained faithful to their faith and traditions

Pius XII

Portugal: God used you as a precious instrument for admirable accomplishments

John Paul II

Loving your past and purifying it, you will be faithful to yourselves
Thank you Spain for your fidelity to the Gospel and to the Spouse of Christ! – due to your incomparable evangelizing activity the most numerous portion of the Church of Christ today prays to God in Spanish

III – The purpose of the evangelization in America: to bring divine life to the pagans and treat them as children of God


Pius V

Be attentive to redirect this people to pacific customs and civilized ways of life
By the propagation of religion, your kingdom shall also be consolidated and augmented – and will be rewarded in this life and the next

John Paul II

Men in whom pulsates concern for the weak, for the defenseless native
Apostles that put themselves side by side with the indigenous populations – he who evangelizes also civilizes

IV – The Popes were not silent about injustices. Condemnation under pain of excommunication to those who enslaved the peoples of the Americas


Paul III

Prohibition to rob or enslave the indigenous peoples

Urban VIII

Efficacious defense of the Indians - we vigorously prohibit that they be deprived of liberty in any way

Benedict XIV

Profound sorrow caused by those who still hinder the indigenous from embracing the faith by inhuman treatment - even after grave punishments and ecclesiastical censures
Chastisement and grave punishments for those who behave toward the Indians in a manner contrary to Christian meekness and charity
Excommunication latæ sententiæ for those who mistreat the Indians

John Paul II

The Catholic Church: moved by the fidelity to the Spirit of Christ, an untiring defender of the Indians and protector of the values of their cultures

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