Colonisers "trampled" on indigenous rights, Pope admits

Clarifying a comment that indigenous peoples in the Americas were "silently longing" for Christ when Europeans arrived, Pope Benedict yesterday recognised that the human rights of native peoples were often "trampled" upon by colonisers.

Addressing his first Wednesday audience since his return from Brazil, Pope Benedict said the colonisation of the Americas brought injustices and sufferings to the native peoples, but it also opened the way to the proclamation of the Gospel and a unique "dialogue of faith and culture," Catholic News says.

"My trip first of all had the value of being an act of praise to God for the marvels worked among the peoples of Latin America, for the faith that has animated their lives and cultures for more than 500 years," he said.

The pope said the Catholic faith has and continues to be part of the living history of the Latin American peoples as seen in their "popular piety and art in dialogue with the rich pre-Columbian traditions and then with the multiple influences of Europe and the other continents."

Pope Benedict said that in remembering the continent's history, "one cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of the evangelisation of the Latin American continent."

"It is not possible, in fact, to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonisers on the indigenous populations whose human and basic rights often were trampled," he said.

Pope Benedict's comments at the audience appeared to be a response to some criticisms raised over his remarks in Brazil that the Catholic faith was not imposed on the indigenous peoples.

At his audience, the pope said, "the obligatory mention of the unjustifiable crimes" committed against the continent's indigenous peoples, "crimes that even then were denounced by missionaries like (Dominican Father) Bartolome de las Casas" must not prevent people from giving thanks for "the marvellous work carried out by divine grace among those peoples over the course of the centuries."

The Gospel and the local cultures, he said, came together in a "dynamic synthesis" that now forms "the identity of the Latin American people."

Can't "erase" indigenous dignity, Jesuit scholar says

Meanwhile in a speech to be delivered at the "Voices of hope" public forum this Sunday at North Sydney to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Australian referendum, visiting Jesuit anthropologist Fr Jojo Fung will argue that a sense of solidarity among nations can only be fostered when indigenous cultural and religious traditions are celebrated.

In an excerpt of his talk published on Eureka Street today, the Malaysian scholar says that "The systemic closure and erasure of indigenous cultural and religious beliefs and practices is common in any colonised society."

Noting that indigenous practices in many countries such as Colombia were branded as blasphemous according to the Christian worldview, he said that "Indigenous religion can be outlawed, but not outlived".

"Rituals and shamanic experiences constitute an existential DNA fabric of aboriginal human dignity," says Fr Fung, who has a long history of involvement with Malaysian indigenous people.

Pope says colonization brought injustices, opened way for Gospel (Catholic News, 23/5/07)
Aboriginal dignity rooted in beliefs subverted but subversive (Eureka Street Extra, 24/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Text of Pope Benedict's remarks (Vatican website)
Australian referendum 1967 (Wikipedia)
Voices of Hope - New Pentecost Forum 2007

Benedict slams Marxism, capitalism (CathNews, 15/5/07)
Green pope says save Amazon (CathNews, 14/5/07)
Latin America "continent of hope", Benedict believes (CathNews, 14/5/07)
Benedict backs excommunication for pro-abortion pollies (CathNews, 10/5/07)

Pope's remarks on conquest denounced (LA Times, 23/4/07)
Brazil upholds profound Christian values (Vatican Information Service, 23/5/07)

24 May 2007