A US Catholic Bishop has asked to meet with Pope Francis to “re-examine” 15th century documents that justified European conquest of lands and indigenous peoples in the Americas and elsewhere.
This call from Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse, NY, will amplify calls by the ‘first nations’ of Canada, the USA and South and Central America for the repudiation of the ‘Doctrine of Discovery‘ contained in documents dating from 1452 CE and later. It was these documents that underpinned voyages of exploration, colonisation and conquest by heavily-armed European adventurers such as Christopher Columbus.
Beginning with Dum Diversas in 1452, a series of papal bulls encouraged Christian European monarchs, merchants and adventurers to sponsor conquest of the Americas and other lands. The voyages that followed also led to the capture and enslavement of millions of native Africans – the infamous Atlantic slave trade.
“Basically, it was taking away the right to ownership. Literally. It was subjugating them. They became second-class citizens,” Bishop Lucia insists. “Today we talk about white supremacy. This was white supremacy.”
This move from a US Catholic bishop – whose own office sits on land once owned by the Onondaga nation, the indigenous people occupying it when Europeans first arrived – follows sweeping outrage in Canada following the discovery of the graves of First Nation children taken from their homes to be ‘civilised’ in church-run residential schools in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most were controlled by the Catholic Church. Similar schools, controlled by civil authorities, existed in the USA, where the same process of recovery is under way.
Protestations that the Catholic church has already apologised for its role in this era of conquest – for example in ‘Memory and Reconciliation‘ in 1999 – are unlikely to stem growing outrage as the search for the graves of other indigenous child victims proceeds.
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