The Vatican has answered the Indigenous demands by rejecting the "Doctrine of Discovery." This theory, which was supported by 15th-century "papal bulls," was used to justify the seizure of Native lands during the colonial era and still forms the basis of some property laws today.
Vatican's Response Rejecting 'Doctrine of Discovery'
According to Associated Press News, in a statement issued by the Vatican's development and education offices, the papal bulls were acknowledged as insufficient in reflecting Indigenous peoples' equal dignity and rights.
The statement recognized the Vatican's complicity in the abuses of colonialism committed by European powers, marking a historic moment. This statement was issued by the first Latin American pope, who met with Indigenous leaders from Canada precisely one year ago to discuss this issue.
According to reports, the Indigenous leaders who met with the pope last year welcomed the Vatican's recent statement on the Doctrine of Discovery as a positive first step, even though it did not call for rescinding the papal bulls themselves.
The statement was criticized for not acknowledging the Vatican's direct culpability in the abuses committed during the colonial era. The Vatican's report did, however, acknowledge that the papal documents had been "manipulated" by competing colonial powers to justify immoral acts against Indigenous peoples, sometimes without opposition from ecclesiastical authorities.
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Pope Francis Apologizes to Indigenous Peoples in Canada for Residential School System and Demands for Rescinding of Papal Bulls
In 2022, Pope Francis visited Canada and publicly apologized to Indigenous peoples for the residential school system that forcibly removed Native children from their homes. According to the article shared in Yahoo! News, during his visit, demands were made for a formal repudiation of the papal bulls, which were the documents that authorized the system. Two Indigenous women unfolded a banner at the altar of the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré that called for the rescinding of the Doctrine.
Michelle Schenandoah of the Oneida Nation had also called for the Vatican to rescind the papal bulls. She recently commented on the Vatican's statement, saying that it was a step in the right direction but did not mention the rescinding of the bulls themselves.
She emphasized that the Doctrine of Discovery has had a lasting impact on Indigenous peoples, leading to genocidal policies. It was time for nation-states, such as the United States, to take accountability for their actions.
The Vatican has yet to present any proof that the three 15th-century papal bulls, namely: Dum Diversas in 1452, Romanus Pontifex in 1455, and Inter Caetera in 1493, to be related to the Doctrine of Discovery have been formally revoked. The article in CBC says that a succeeding bull, Sublimis Deus, which affirmed the rights of Indigenous people, was referenced in a recent statement.
Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, had previously apologized to Indigenous peoples in Bolivia for the crimes committed during the colonial conquest of the Americas. The statement reflected the Vatican's dialogue with Indigenous peoples and its commitment to reconciliation through understanding and listening, according to Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça.
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