Benedict XV1: No apology for insult to Latin American Indians, nor any mention of ... Print E-mail

forced conversions, epidemics, massacres, enslavement & other abuses which accompanied colonisation

The Sydney Morning Herald ~~ Friday May 25 2007

Pope admits crimes of Christian colonisation

Tracy Wilkinson in Rome

CONFRONTED with continued anger in Latin America, Pope Benedict has acknowledged that the Christian colonisation of Indian populations was not as rosy as he portrayed in a speech this month in Brazil.

The Pope did not apologise, as some indigenous and Latin American leaders have demanded. However, he did say it was impossible to ignore the dark "shadows" and "unjustified crimes" that accompanied the evangelisation of the New World by Catholic priests in the 15th and 16th centuries.

"It is not possible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonisers on the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon," the Pope said in his weekly public audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday. "Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelising the Latin American continent."

Still, he said, recognising the sins should not detract from the good achieved by the missionaries: "Mentioning this must not prevent us from acknowledging with gratitude the marvellous work accomplished by the divine grace among these people."

In his first papal journey to the Americas, Benedict visited Brazil for five days this month and gave a speech that many saw as a revisionist account of history.

Indigenous populations, he said, welcomed their European colonisers because they were "secretly longing" for Christ "without realising it". Conversion to Christianity "did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture".

He did not mention forced conversions, epidemics, massacres, enslavement and other abuses that most historians agree accompanied colonisation.

Indigenous rights groups and the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia were incensed.

The episode is the latest in which the Pope, elucidating a theological point that he firmly believes, made statements that seemed to disregard cultural and historical sensitivities.

Last year, in a speech in Germany, he quoted comments by a Byzantine emperor widely seen as insulting to Islam, triggering rage among Muslims. He did not apologise for what he said, but said he was sorry for the reaction his words had caused.

Los Angeles Times


London ~~ Wednesday May 23, 2007

Pope: Injustices Done in Colonization

Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI, who has been criticized by Indian rights groups, said Wednesday the church does not gloss over the injustices that accompanied the Christian colonization of Latin America and lamented that indigenous peoples' basic rights were often trampled upon by missionaries.

``While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region and provides inspiration to address the challenges of our globalized era,'' Benedict told English-speaking pilgrims in St. Peter's Square as he talked about his trip to Brazil earlier this month.

Benedict said that his visit to Brazil, his first papal voyage to Latin America, ``embraced not only that great nation, but all Latin America, home to many of the world's Catholics.'' He described the trip as being ``above all, a pilgrimage of praise to God for the faith which has shaped their cultures for over 500 years.''

``Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelizing the Latin American continent,'' the pope said.

Benedict's remarks to Italian-speaking pilgrims at his general audience in the square were even stronger than the comments in English.

``It is not possible, indeed, to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled on,'' Benedict said.

The pontiff said he was making a ``dutiful mention of such unjustifiable crimes'' and said some missionaries and theologians in the past had condemned them.

Indian rights groups in Brazil criticized Benedict for his insistence that Latin American Indians wanted to become Christian before European conquerors arrived centuries ago.

During the trip, the pontiff told a regional conference of bishops in Brazil that pre-Columbian people of Latin America and the Caribbean were seeking Christ without realizing it.

Paulo Suess, an adviser to the church-backed Brazil's Indian Missionary Council, said at the end of the trip that Benedict's comments failed to take into account that Indians were enslaved and killed by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers who forced them to become Catholic.

Marcio Meira, in charge of Brazil's federal Indian Bureau, said Indians were forced to convert to Catholicism as the result of a ``colonial process.''

The pope in Brazil told the bishops that, ``the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture.''

In 2000, during the Vatican's Holy Year, the Catholic Church apologized to Brazil's Indians and blacks during a ceremony in Brazil for the ``sins and errors'' committed by its clergy and faithful in the past 500 years. A Vatican cardinal representing Pope John Paul II participated in the ceremony, which saw the head of Brazil's bishops conference ask God for forgiveness for the sins committed against brothers, especially the Indians.