Pope Francis made an apology to the indigenous peoples of Mexico yesterday and asked for forgiveness for the manner in which the Catholic Church has in the past dehumanized them all in the name of the Gospel. The Holy Father after the allocations citing examples of centuries of abuse towards the native tribes of Mexico, the Pope in a final and exasperating request for forgiveness concluded, “Sorry Brothers!” The apology by the Holy Father reflects his global message in the Year of Mercy that includes egregious acts committed by the Church in the name of God. Pope Francis throughout his pontificate has often apologized for the Church’s transgressions committed in the name of evangelization.
The Mass celebrated by the Holy Father, included signs and symbols of Mexico’s various indigenous tribes, including the Holy Father’s miter, displaying a symbol common to the ancient peoples of Mexico. While the Pope’s message was delivered to Mexico’s indigenous peoples, it is intended to reflect the Church’s often cruel and inconsiderate appreciation to local culture and customs to not only Mexico, but to the global community of faith that the Church has grievously offended over centuries.
The Pope’s pastoral message extended to not only the atrocities committed against native peoples, but also the institutional ignominies committed against their native environments, traditions and a general dismissal of the cultural heritages of their collective cultures. Faithful Catholics attending the celebration wore native dress and native languages were incorporated into the Liturgy of the Word and in the Prayers of the Faithful. Traditional native music also accompanied the Liturgy and provided a joyous prayerful atmosphere as the Pope and his faithful indigenous Mexican people celebrated the Catholic Eucharist.
Pope Francis wanted his pastoral visit to Mexico to include San Cristobal de las Casas, where the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz ministered to Mexico’s poorest and supported blending their indigenous culture into Catholic rituals, much to the dismay of Mexico’s church hierarchy and occasionally the Vatican.
The Pope’s homily deplored the, “systematic and organized way,” in which the Church has often misunderstood and excluded indigenous peoples in a manner that often excluded them from mainstream society, especially within the Church.
The Holy Father then continued to ask for forgiveness of the native peoples, for the manner in which the Church with the assistance of those that sought fortunes had contaminated and destroyed their lands for monetary gains. In a final appeal, the Pope concluded with a collective, “Forgive me,” as the apology for the entire People of God.
At the conclusion of the Sacred Liturgy the Holy Father presented the leadership of the various tribes of Mexico’s indigenous peoples with a formal Vatican decree formalizing the permission for various dialects of the Chipas languages to be used in the celebration of the Mass and other Sacraments.
One of the most significant comments the Holy Father during his homily expressed to the Chipas peoples is, “The Church is a poor Church, for the poor!” His statement unequivocally reenforced Pope Francis’ consistent message regarding the Church’s pastoral ministry; directed to both the spiritually and temporally poor throughout the world.