Pope Francis’ ongoing pilgrimage through Mexico will include a symbolically significant stop at Chiapas, home of a large indigenous population that has suffered poverty ever since the arrival of the colonialists.
The Romero Institute believes this visit to San Cristobal de las Casas, where Bishop Samuel Ruiz once defied the Vatican in his support of the local members of indigenous tribes is yet another gesture of support for Native peoples in the Americas. But it is not enough.
Only a revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery will truly address the Church’s complicity in the centuries of injustices perpetrated against the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.
After landing in Mexico City today, Francis is scheduled to meet with the Bishops of Mexico before continuing his journey through the country. As the first Latin American Pope, the people of Mexico have expressed excitement about the visit.
A major stop on tour will focus on venturing through the region of Chiapas. Chiapas has the largest indigenous population of Mexico and is also plagued by poverty. On Monday, Feb. 15 he is slated to give the Holy Mass with the indigenous community of Chiapas at the Municipal Sports (Homily by the Holy Father).
In the past Pope Francis has shown interest in protecting the rights and civility of the impoverished native peoples and indigenous tribes of countries. Last year in Bolivia, he delivered a speech apologizing for the role of the Church in injustice toward native peoples.
“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 said.
Chiapas is home to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, one of the foremost defenders of indigenous rights, who has been in declared war with the Mexican state since 1994. They have been fighting for the rights of those oppressed by globalist economic systems both in and beyond Mexico. They also assert the rights of Indigenous communities to live in traditional manners without the interference of government and industry bent on upending that way of life.
The Catholic Church played a vital role in the mediation between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government in 1994. Bishop Samuel Ruiz fought for traditional indigenous languages to be used in the liturgy and for married deacons to minister for their people because they had more of an understanding for the married lay workers.
He was also a full-throated advocate for indigenous rights, in Chiapas and abroad.
“Samuel Ruiz worked to build a fairer, more equal, more dignified Mexico without discrimination, where indigenous communities have a voice and where their rights are respected by all,” said former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, when Ruiz died in 2011.
But Ruiz paid for his advocacy, as conservative members of the of the Church took issue with his approach to indigenous rights.
The Vatican asked Ruiz to resign in 1994 and when he eventually retired in 1999 the Vatican suspended the ordinance of deacons.
However, in 2014 under Pope Francis’ authority, the Church lifted the ban — another sign Pope Francis is becoming aware of the injustices towards the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and the complicity of the Church.
In, fact, many of these injustices can be traced back to the enforcement of the Doctrine of Discovery which allowed for the seizing of Indigenous Peoples and their lands in favor of colonial and postcolonial governments.
The Romero Institute, while grateful for Francis’ acknowledgement of the Church’s past sins, asserts such acknowledgements are ultimately insufficient. Only a full revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery by the Church will suffice.
The Doctrine still affects laws and policies surrounding land use throughout the Americas and gives an inappropriate moral blessing to the exploitative and colonial actions of governments and industry.
Please help the Romero Institute revoke the Doctrine of Discovery. It is a moral imperative for our age. You can sign the petition here.
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