In a far-reaching speech in Bolivia on Thursday, Pope Francis offered his apologies to, and begged forgiveness from, the native people of the Americas as he acknowledged the brutal treatment they received throughout the so-called “conquest of America.”
In a speech that also touched on the need to rapidly move away from the destructive model ofunbridled capitalism—which he described as the “dung of the devil”—Francis went much further than any of his predecessors in accounting for the crimes of the Church while it pursued and perpetuated colonialism and oppression across Latin America and beyond over the last five centuries.
“I wish to be quite clear,” said Francis. “I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.” He added, “There was sin and an abundant amount of it.”
In response, it was reported, the large crowd offered rousing applause.
The speech was delivered to a regional gathering of Indigenous people and social justice activists attending the Second World Meeting of the Popular Movements and followed remarks from Bolivian President Evo Morales—the nation’s first-ever Indigenous person to hold the office.