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500 Years Ago, Columbus’ Ships Landed in America…

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In the celebrations and protests of  the Fifth Centenary, the voice of the Church from the Discovery to our times

On the occasion of the fifth centennial of the discovery of the Americas, being celebrated on October 12th, there is growing propaganda against the continent’s missionaries and colonizers.

This colossal wave of publicity against the glorious date that marked the beginning of the Christianization of our continent tends to challenge the very mission Our Lord Jesus Christ gave His Church, “Go ye and teach all peoples” (Mt. 28:18-19).

Leading exponents of Liberation Theology, who advocate neo-missionary indigenous tribalism, condemn the conquest and evangelization of America and have long been preparing their protests against the Fifth Centenary’s celebrations.

A Sonnet to “Brother Judas”

In July 1986, as the second Ecumenical Consultation of the Latin American Indigenous Pastoral Care met in Quito (Ecuador), representatives from 15 countries of the continent launched an “indigenous manifesto”.

It expresses, for the first time with Catholic support, a “total refusal of the triumphalist celebrations of the Fifth Centenary.”

For the Indian delegates “there was no such discovery but an invasion with its implications: genocide by occupation, usurpation of territories, the disintegration of socio-political and cultural organizations, and ideological and religious subjection.”

Father Virgilio Elizondo commited suicide

From the Third World Association of Theologians, former Franciscan religious Leonardo Boff and Virgilio Elizondo issued a manifesto against the evangelization of America. They said: “On October 12, 1492, a holy Friday of pain and blood began for Latin America and the Caribbean which continues until now without seeing the Sunday of the Resurrection. Fourteen ninety two is the date of the conquerors and not of indigenous populations. It is not the memory of a blessing but the nightmare of a genocide.”

Archbishop José Maria PiresOn the same subject, Archbishop José Maria Pires, Archbishop of João Pessoa (PB, Brazil), expressed himself thus: “The Fifth Centenary can be celebrated with a triumphal party but also with a penitential celebration asking forgiveness for the destruction of Indian civilizations and the deportation of Africans into slavery”” (La Croix, November 2, 1990).

For his part, Most Rev. Erwin Krautler, Bishop of Xingu, states: “In America, there were 90 million indigenous people and 70 million were exterminated. I have to say that the Church has historical guilt in all this. It must make an examination of conscience and not celebrate the discovery” (El País, Barcelona, April 29,1991).

Most Rev. Pedro Casaldáliga

The Bishop of Saint Felix of Araguaia, Most Rev. Pedro Casaldáliga could not be missing from this sad cast. In a circular letter to his diocese in the New Year of 1991, he wrote:

“In the Church, it is urgent to speak the truth about the Fifth Centenary, as, from the first moment of the conquest of America, the lie accompanied greed, the sword, and catechesis.”

In the same circular, Bishop Casaldáliga makes this significant revelation of his thought:

“I don’t think God is even a judge. In the end, God’s problem will be to condemn anyone. I recently wrote a sonnet for Judas. And I call him Judas, brother Judas, companion.” Then he asks, “Do you think Judas was worse than me?”

In a second circular over the New Year of 1992, Bishop Casaldáliga comments on the campaign against the celebration of the Fifth Centenary: “For victims, the Fifth Centenary is the subversive memory of 500 years of a genocidal military, political, cultural and social invasion. It is also the subversive memory of the elimination of 90 million indigenous and black human beings during colonialism, which continues today in the disguised massacre of the working people, indigenous peasants and the poor in general. No page in human history tells of a greater genocide-ethnocide.”

True Catholic Doctrine on the Evangelization of America

Facing the novelties that these new missionaries want to foist upon us, it is necessary to know the true Catholic doctrine about this matter.

In impressive continuity, the Roman Pontiffs, from Alexander VI to John Paul II, spoke on the subject on the margins of historical controversy to leave no doubt about it.

The Vatican Publishing House has just published a collection of 837 papal documents from 1493-1591, titled Americae Pontificiae – Primi Saeculi Evangelizationis, under the care of Father Josef Metzler, director of the Vatican School of Paleography. It gathers papal bulls from Alexander VI to Gregory XIV on the evangelization of the Americas kept in the Vatican Secret Archive.

In his famous bull Inter Caetera of May 3, 1493, Alexander VI stated, “Let the Catholic Faith and the Christian Religion be exalted above all in our times and wherever they may spread and expand seeking the salvation of souls, and let the barbarous nations be subjected and reduced to the Christian Faith.”

Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III

On May 29, 1537, Pope Paul III, with his Pastorale officium, condemned the slave trade and stated that the natives should be considered men rather than animals.

Shortly after that, the same Paul III, in the document Exponi nobis super fecisti, granted priests who worked in the Americas the power to denounce to the authorities settlers which enslaved natives of the new continent.

Pope Saint Pius V, in a letter dated August 10, 1568, praised the zeal to convert the Indians manifested by the King of Spain, Philip II. The Pope followed with vigilant attention the appropriateness of the appointments of viceroys and minor authorities responsible for evangelizing and protecting American aborigines against possible excesses committed by the settlers.

Confirming the doctrine current at the time, the Pontiffs ratified the right of Iberian nations to colonize America and evangelize its inhabitants. To this end, they delegated special responsibilities and faculties to the kings of Portugal and Spain, praising their recognized apostolic vocation.

Whoever peruses the papal documents of the first century of colonization will see how they praise the great civilizing work and also how careful the Church was in correcting abuses committed and respecting the natural rights of the Indians and the legitimate or redeemable aspects of their way of life.

Pope Gregory XIII published no less than 155 documents, and Pope Sixtus XV, 102, almost all intended to set norms to favor the conversion of the Indians.

Gregory_XIII
Pope Gregory XIII

The IV Centenary of the Discovery of America merited an Encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on July 16, 1892, titled Quarto abeunte saeculo.

In a message of January 8, 1948, Pius XII called the process of evangelization of America a “missionary epic.”

Finally, John Paul II, in closing the International Symposium on the History of the Evangelization of America at the Vatican on March 14, 1992, reaffirmed the teachings of his predecessors and recapitulated the “foundations of a Christian colonization” developed by Friar Francisco Vitoria (1480-1546), a Spanish Dominican of the famous Salamanca School.

The Pope recalls that the Dominican master explained the natural rights of the Indians as “rational and free beings, created in the image and likeness of God, with a personal and transcendent destiny for which they could be saved or condemned.”

The Pontiff points out that, “according to the doctrine expounded by Vitoria, by virtue of the right to society and natural communication, the most endowed men and peoples had a duty to help the most backward and underdeveloped.” Thus Vitoria justified Spain’s intervention in America.

*    *    *

Nothing is more contrary, then, to the position of the neo-missionaries than the firm and uninterrupted teaching of the Popes concerning the evangelization of America.

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Bibliography:

  1. A Voz das vítimas, Ed. Vozes, Petrópolis, RJ, 1960.
  2. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Indian Tribalism, the Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century, Editora Vera Cruz, São Paulo, 1979.
  3. Alberto Caturelli, El Nuevo Mundo – El Descubrimiento, La Conquista y la Evangelización de América y La Culturà Occidental, Centro Cultural Edamex, Mexico City, 1991.

Source: Catolicismo – October 1992

 

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