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Vatican rejects ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ Used By World Powers To Justify Colonialism


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On Thursday, the Vatican responded to the demands of its congregation and officially rejected the “doctrine of discovery,” a theory advanced by “papal bulls” from the 15th century.

A Vatican statement said the papal ordinances or decrees “do not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples” and had never been considered an expression of the Catholic faith.

The statement by the Vatican’s development and education authorities represents a historic acknowledgment of the Vatican’s colonial-era complicity with European monarchies and was welcomed by indigenous leaders.

Vatican rejects 'Doctrine of Discovery' Used By World Powers To Justify Colonialism

However, he continued to shrug off any actual Vatican guilt, saying the papal documents had been “manipulated” by the colonial authorities for political ends “to justify immoral actions against indigenous peoples, sometimes carried out without opposition from church authorities.”

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It is right, the statement said, to “acknowledge these mistakes,” to acknowledge the horrific impact of colonial-era assimilation policies on indigenous peoples, and to seek their forgiveness.

The manifesto was a response to decades of native demands for the Vatican to officially abolish papal bulls that had given religious support to the Portuguese and Spanish kingdoms to expand their territories in Africa and the Americas to spread Christianity.

These ordinances support the “Discovery Doctrine,” a legal concept formulated in a US Supreme Court decision in 1823, which is now understood to mean that ownership and sovereignty over the country passed to Europeans because they “discovered” it.

Last cited as a 2005 Supreme Court decision on the Oneida Indian Nation authored by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Vatican rejects 'Doctrine of Discovery' Used By World Powers To Justify Colonialism

During Pope Francis’ 2022 visit to Canada, where he apologized to Indigenous peoples for a residential school system that forcibly removed Indigenous children from their homes, he was met with calls for papal bulls to be officially dismissed.

Two Aboriginal women unfurled a banner at the altar of the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre National Shrine on July 29 that read: “Abolish the Doctrine” in bright red and black letters.

The protesters were led away and the service continued without incident, although the women later took the banner outside the church and hung it on the railing.


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