Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Brazil's Indians offended by Pope comments
Mon May 14, 2007 11:28 PM IST
By Raymond Colitt
BRASILIA (Reuters) 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.
Several Indian groups sent a letter to the Pope last week asking for his support in defending their ancestral lands and culture. They said the Indians had suffered a "process of genocide" since the first European colonizers had arrived.
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.
"The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians but they already asked forgiveness for that ... so is the Pope taking back the Church's word?" said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state.
Pope John Paul spoke in 1992 of mistakes in the evangelization of native peoples of the Americas.
Pope Benedict not only upset many Indians but also Catholic priests who have joined their struggle, said Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes.
"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."
Brazil indigenous groups fault pope talk
Staff and agencies
15 May, 2007
By VIVIAN SEQUERA, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago
SAO PAULO, Brazil Indian rights groups are criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for insisting that Latin American Indians wanted to become Christian before European conquerors arrived centuries ago.
But Paulo Suess, an adviser to Brazil's Indian Missionary Council, said Monday that the comments fail to account for the fact that Indians were enslaved and killed by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers who forced them to become Catholic.
The pope told the bishops that, "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture."
"As an anthropologist and a historian I feel obliged to say that, yes, in the past 500 years there was an imposition of the Catholic religion on the indigenous people," Meira said.
"To say that there was no imposition is a falsification in light of the history if those that did not accept the faith were flagellated," said Ricardo Cajas.
Benedict said that indigenous Latin Americans formed "a synthesis between their cultures and the Christian faith which the missionaries were offering them."
Suess said the pope made similar statements while he was a senior cardinal.
Holy disaster: Pope alienates indigenous peoples
Posted: May 17, 2007
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today
"Arrogant." "Disrespectful." "Poorly advised." These harsh words were not aimed at an unpopular president; not this time. They are the criticisms by Indian leaders in Latin America of Pope Benedict XVI, who again made headlines for culturally insensitive and historically inaccurate remarks.
About this time last year the pope stirred international controversy when he characterizing the Prophet Mohammed as having spread Islam by the sword in an "evil and inhuman" manner. On May 15 he declared that the Roman Catholic Church had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Pope Benedict continues to stir up controversy wherever in the world he lands. But this particular papal idiom cannot be attributed to or excused as simple ignorance. There is an element of intent in the pope's recent remarks that should anger, and mobilize, indigenous people throughout the world.
In a speech at the Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, the pope characterized pre-contact Indians as "silently longing" for Christianity and stated that "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture." It may be the most blatantly erroneous statement about the Christian legacy on indigenous cultures ever uttered.
Not only did the pope's comments exhibit an ever-increasing general arrogance that aims to deny the rights of indigenous peoples around the world but, in this rare case, they came straight from the source. Millions of tribal people died as a result of the institution of the 15th century Inter Caetera papal bulls that provided legal justification for European colonization of the Native people of the Americas (including Brazil where Benedict spoke) and Africa. Then, Indians were slaughtered, enslaved or exposed to deadly diseases. Now, Native survivors of Christian colonization efforts suffer its traumatic generational effects: a diminished ability to relate to and practice traditional life ways, social exclusion and learned sexual abuse. If this does not qualify as an "imposition" on the culture of indigenous peoples, what does?
Last year's controversy was sparked by the pope's suggestion at the University of Regensburg in Germany that Islam was spread through violence and that it was "contrary to God's plan." It seemed fair at the time to give him the benefit of the doubt for misspeaking. "He could clarify that the inherent rationality to which he referred ... is a property of all humanity, not solely of Europeans," we stated. "We have no doubt that this was the true intent of his remarkable lecture. But if he is through apologizing to Muslims, perhaps he could now explain himself to the indigenous peoples of the world." It is certain that our charitable view of that situation did not serve the legions of indigenous people who are now offended by suggestions that cultural decimation is considered "purification" by the Church and its most revered leader.
The Vatican has for years largely ignored the valid request by indigenous peoples and their representatives to rescind the papal bulls and the "doctrine of discovery" they inspired. And just days before his visit to Brazil, the country's Indians appealed to Pope Benedict to express solidarity with them and acknowledge their struggle against the government's encroachment upon their territories. They referred to a "process of genocide," which no doubt began with the arrival of European Christian crusaders. It is agreed then that the pope is fully aware of the indigenous position on the lasting legacy of Christianity as a colonizing force. Ignorance is no excuse. The comments were more an indication that the Church's knowledge of indigenous cultures has not evolved much since the days when Natives were thought by Catholic monarchs to be heathens empty of a guiding spiritual force, in need of enlightenment.
It may be futile to demand an apology from the Church's highest leader, but it is imperative that the indigenous voices continue to rise in protest after the controversy dies down. The public display of outrage (and credible threats of violence) by the Muslim world last year garnered a mea culpa by the pope, who said he was "deeply sorry." It is now time the Vatican, as a religious authority and political nation-state, acknowledges the cost of Christianity on the indigenous people of the world. Perhaps a statement from Pope Benedict recognizing the inherent sovereignty of Indian tribal peoples as reiteration of this theological tradition would be a good, first step toward making amends.
Pope backs off...sort of
Pope: Injustices Done in Colonization
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 23, 2007
Filed at 9:38 a.m. ET
VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope Benedict XVI, who has been criticized by Indian rights groups, said Wednesday the church does not gloss over the injustices that accompanied the Christian colonization of Latin America and lamented that indigenous peoples' basic rights were often trampled upon by missionaries.
"While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region and provides inspiration to address the challenges of our globalized era," Benedict told English-speaking pilgrims in St. Peter's Square as he talked about his trip to Brazil earlier this month.
Benedict said that his visit to Brazil, his first papal voyage to Latin America, "embraced not only that great nation, but all Latin America, home to many of the world's Catholics." He described the trip as being "above all, a pilgrimage of praise to God for the faith which has shaped their cultures for over 500 years."
"Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelizing the Latin American continent," the pope said.
Benedict's remarks to Italian-speaking pilgrims at his general audience in the square were even stronger than the comments in English.
"It is not possible, indeed, to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled on," Benedict said.
The pontiff said he was making a "dutiful mention of such unjustifiable crimes" and said some missionaries and theologians in the past had condemned them.
Indian rights groups in Brazil criticized Benedict for his insistence that Latin American Indians wanted to become Christian before European conquerors arrived centuries ago.
During the trip, the pontiff told a regional conference of bishops in Brazil that pre-Columbian people of Latin America and the Caribbean were seeking Christ without realizing it.
Paulo Suess, an adviser to the church-backed Brazil's Indian Missionary Council, said at the end of the trip that Benedict's comments failed to take into account that Indians were enslaved and killed by the Portuguese and Spanish settlers who forced them to become Catholic.
Marcio Meira, in charge of Brazil's federal Indian Bureau, said Indians were forced to convert to Catholicism as the result of a "colonial process."
The pope in Brazil told the bishops that, "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture."
In 2000, during the Vatican's Holy Year, the Catholic Church apologized to Brazil's Indians and blacks during a ceremony in Brazil for the "sins and errors" committed by its clergy and faithful in the past 500 years. A Vatican cardinal representing Pope John Paul II participated in the ceremony, which saw the head of Brazil's bishops conference ask God for forgiveness for the sins committed against brothers, especially the Indians.
Pope recognizes colonial injustices
His earlier comments on indigenous people had angered Latin Americans.
By Tracy Wilkinson
Times Staff Writer
May 24, 2007
ROME Confronted with continued anger in Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday acknowledged that the Christian colonization of Indian populations was not as rosy as he portrayed in a major speech earlier this month in Brazil.
The pope did not apologize, as some indigenous and Latin American leaders have demanded.
However, he said it was impossible to ignore the dark "shadows" and "unjustified crimes" that accompanied the evangelization of the New World by Roman Catholic priests in the 15th and 16th centuries.
"It is not possible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon," the pope said. "Certainly, the memory of a glorious past cannot ignore the shadows that accompanied the work of evangelizing the Latin American continent."
Still, he said, recognizing the sins should not detract from the good achieved by the missionaries: "Mentioning this must not prevent us from acknowledging with gratitude the marvelous work accomplished by the divine grace among these people in the course of these centuries," he said.
Benedict was addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his weekly public audience.
Benedict made his first papal voyage to the Americas this month, visiting Brazil. In his final and most important speech of the five-day visit, he gave what many saw as a revisionist account of history.
Indigenous populations, he said at the time, welcomed their European colonizers because they were "secretly longing" for Christ "without realizing it." Conversion to Christianity "did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture," he said.
The pope made no mention of forced conversions, epidemic illnesses, massacres, enslavement and other abuses that most historians agree accompanied colonization.
Indigenous rights groups, plus the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, were incensed.
The episode is the latest in which the pope, elucidating a theological point he firmly believes, made statements that appeared to ignore or disregard cultural and historical sensitivities.
The most explosive example occurred last year when, during a speech on faith and reason in Germany, he quoted comments by a Byzantine emperor widely seen as insulting to Islam. The speech triggered rage across the Muslim world, prompting the pope to make several subsequent statements, not apologizing for what he said but saying he was sorry for the reaction his words had caused.
Not quite a papal mea culpa
The pope's half-hearted apology to indigenous groups in the Americas shows he has a long way to go in understanding history.
By Robert J. Miller
ROBERT J. MILLER is a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, the chief justice of the Grand Ronde Tribe and an Eastern Shawnee. He is the author of the new book "Native America: Discovered and Conquered."
May 24, 2007
POPE BENEDICT XVI has apparently, sort of, admitted the truth about the forced religious conversions of the native peoples of the New World. On Wednesday, he acknowledged that "unjustifiable crimes" were committed during colonial-era evangelization in the New World. But he did not repudiate the statements he made on this subject during his visit to South America earlier this month, as was demanded by indigenous groups and by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez even accused the pope of ignoring the "holocaust" that followed Columbus' "discovery" of the New World in 1492.
On May 13, while speaking to Latin American and Caribbean bishops, the pope demonstrated an amazing ignorance of the history of the violent cultural and religious oppression of indigenous peoples in the New World by European Christians. Benedict stated that the native people had been "silently longing" for Christ and were seeking God "without realizing it." He said that their conversion was not a conquest but an "adoption" that made "their cultures fruitful, purifying them . "
Benedict further demonstrated his misunderstanding of the "civilization" and massacres of natives in North, Central and South America when he stated that the church had not imposed itself on indigenous peoples, that Christianity had not been detrimental to their way of life.
"In effect," he said, "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture."
Not surprisingly, Benedict's comments angered Indian leaders in Brazil and elsewhere. Brazilian Indians and native organizations called the pope's comments "arrogant and disrespectful" and "offensive and, frankly, frightening." A spokesman for one group said the pope was trying to erase the "dirty work" of colonization, and a spokesman for the Brazilian Indian Missionary Council stated that the pope's comments demonstrated his Eurocentrism and that he must have "missed some history classes."
The pope also missed the history of his church and the papal decrees from the 15th century that handed the world over for conquest, conversion and domination by European Christians.
For example, a papal decree in 1455 authorized Portugal "to invade, search out, capture, vanquish and subdue all Saracens and pagans" along the west coast of Africa and to place them into slavery and to take their property.
Then in 1493, after Columbus' voyage to the New World, Pope Alexander VI issued three decrees. The first granted Spain title to the lands that Columbus had found because they had been "undiscovered by others," thus ignoring the known presence of indigenous people. The second granted Spain any lands it might come upon in the future provided that they were "not previously possessed by any Christian owner." And, even more audaciously, the third decree "Inter caetera II" divided the world from the North to the South Pole and granted Spain title to all lands to be discovered west of the line to assist in "the expansion of the Christian rule."
These were the facts that Benedict overlooked in making his comments in early May. In sharp contrast to those remarks, his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, noted in 1992 that mistakes were made in the conversion of the native peoples of the Americas.
For nearly two weeks, the Vatican was silent in the face of protests against Benedict's comments. Then on Wednesday, the pope finally acknowledged the violence committed during the colonization of the Americas.
"It is not possible, indeed, to forget the sufferings inflicted by colonizers on the indigenous populations, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled on," he told pilgrims at his weekly audience.
But he by no means apologized for his earlier statements: "While we do not overlook the various injustices and sufferings which accompanied colonization, the Gospel has expressed and continues to express the identity of the peoples in this region."
This situation is nearly identical to the pontiff's comments that outraged Muslims last year when he seemed to depict Islam as a religion tainted with violence. He later apologized for the pain his comments caused but apparently did not apologize for the comments themselves.
Clearly, this pope has a long way to go in understanding the truth of the colonization and the history of forced religious conversion of the Americas.
Those evil European invaders
"Primitive" Indian religion
. . .
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