Latin America's Indigenous Offended by Pope
The Pope made a number of gaffes that made his trip to Brazil a collosal failure. But I doubt few are as indefensible and disrespectful to the people of Latin America as his comments on the region's indeigenous people and the "purification" that came with European colonialism. For the sake of the Catholic Church's future in Latin America, the Pope would have been better off staying home.
Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said on Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict's "arrogant and disrespectful" comments that the Roman Catholic Church had purified them and a revival of their religions would be a backward step.
In a speech to Latin American and Caribbean bishops at the end of a visit to Brazil, the Pope said the Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. They had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest as they were "silently longing" for Christianity, he said.
Millions of tribal Indians are believed to have died as a result of European colonization backed by the Church since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, through slaughter, disease or enslavement.
Many Indians today struggle for survival, stripped of their traditional ways of life and excluded from society.
"It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs," said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.
Priests blessed conquistadors as they waged war on the indigenous peoples, although some later defended them and many today are the most vociferous allies of Indians.
"We repudiate the Pope's comments," Tuxa said. "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening. "I think (the Pope) has been poorly advised."
Even the Catholic Church's own Indian advocacy group in Brazil, known as Cimi, distanced itself from the Pope.
"The Pope doesn't understand the reality of the Indians here, his statement was wrong and indefensible," Cimi advisor Father Paulo Suess told Reuters. "I too was upset."