Pope Francis made a recent visit to Bolivia to meet with the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales where he not only sat and chewed coca leaf with the president, but extended his deep official apologies on behalf of the church for what he described as the “sins” and “offenses” that were done to indigenous peoples across the Americas. This occurred at a convention centered around indigenous empowerment and grassroots activism.
How it could possibly be 2015 and an official apology is only now being offered, among countless other deserved retributions, is quite the mystery but the Pope admitted his regret saying, “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… I also want for us to remember the thousands and thousands of priests who strongly opposed the logic of the sword with the power of the cross. There was sin, and it was plentiful. But we never apologized, so I now ask for forgiveness. But where there was sin, and there was plenty of sin, there was also an abundant grace increased by the men who defended indigenous peoples.”
According to USnews.com “Francis noted that Latin American church leaders in the past had acknowledged that “grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God.” St. John Paul II, for his part, apologized to the continent’s indigenous for the “pain and suffering” caused during the 500 years of the church’s presence on the continent during a 1992 visit to the Dominican Republic.”
After Pope Francis delivered his apology and speech, the audience burst into welcoming applause. “We accept the apologies that are more than we could have hoped for from a man like Pope Francis,” said indigenous leader, Adolfo Chávez. The Pope’s presentation was apparently received as being very heartfelt and sincere to the people and indigenous leaders in attendance.
During the conquest of both what is now called North America or the USA as well as south and central America and beyond, European Colonizers based in Catholicism brutally ravaged native culture in nearly every way conceivable from the raping of women to the brutal murders of unarmed native women and children to the intentional depopulation of Buffalo- the all important source of nourishment, to the eventual full scale systematic deconstruction of native culture through schooling, forced language change, broken land agreements, forced moves to reservations, and more.
Not only were numerous native tribes on this continent nearly obliterated on every level, their medicines and ceremonial ways were made illegal and were demonized by the church- most certainly because those in power saw very clearly the power these ways and medicines held.
Pope Francis’ apology was reportedly taken well and perhaps it can be a stepping stone added to the path of healing between indigenous people’s and nations and non-indigenous entities on this continent.