SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, apologized for the Church’s “crimes” and “offenses” during the period of colonization of Latin America, while on a visit to Bolivia.
“Some may rightly say, ‘When the pope speaks of colonialism, he overlooks certain actions of the Church,’” said Pope Francis, in an address on the second day of his visit to the country.
“I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of the Americas in the name of God.”
“I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was St. John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church itself, but also for crimes committed against the native people during the so-called conquest of America,” he added.
His remarks drew thunderous applause from the close to 3,000 member audience, comprising groups from the indigenous and other grass-root groups, gathered for a world summit of popular movements.
This was the pope’s longest speech of his trip to the Latin American continent, where he also stressed on the need to change the existing economic system.
“We want change, real change, and structural change. This system is by now intolerable: farmworkers find it intolerable, laborers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, people find it intolerable... The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable,” he exclaimed.
“Do we realize that something is wrong in a world where there are so many farmworkers without land, so many families without a home, so many laborers without rights, so many people whose dignity is not respected?” he continued.
“Many people are hoping for a change capable of releasing them from the bondage of individualism and the despondency it spawns,” he emphasized.
The pope will travel to Paraguay on Friday, the last stop on his visit.