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First Nations members urge Pope Francis to revoke papal decrees

Members of the Assembly of First Nations on Thursday pressed Pope Francis to revoke 15th century papal orders used to justify colonialism. 

The decrees, issued in 1455 and 1493, approved of colonial explorers’ seizure of Indigenous land in Africa and the Americas and were used in the Doctrine of Discovery, according to CBC News.

“If you look at our history … what happened since they landed on our shores, then basically it’s genocide,” Gerald Antoine, who is the Assembly of First Nations regional chief of the Northwest Territories, CBC reported. “We need to right the wrong.”

Their demands come as Pope Francis welcomed a First Nations delegation to Vatican City, meeting privately for a two-hour meeting with representatives from the group on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. 

“Because we didn’t have souls, that gave the right for these explorers to do whatever they wanted with Indigenous Peoples — murder, rape, enslave,” Kaluhyanu:wes Michelle Schenandoah, an Oneida Nation member, explained, according to CBC.

Schenandoah added that “the doctrine has placed us in this place of being invisible and dispensable.”

But following the Thursday meeting with the pontiff, leaders said Francis was willing to move toward reconciling the Church’s past.

“I feel the pope and the church have expressed a sentiment of working toward reconciliation,” Creen Nation Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty told the AP.

Later this year, Francis is expected to make a trip to Canada, where he has been asked to personally apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in Canadian residential schools, which were meant to run by the Church and meant to assimilate Indigenous children between 1831 and 1996.

The residential schools at times forcibly separated from their families, and a 2015 report from the Canadian government revealed that some of the children were also subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. 

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