Pope Francis told reporters on Friday that the colonization of the Americas by the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese constituted “genocide.”
A journalist told the Pontiff that the indigenous people who heard his apology “lamented the fact that the term genocide was not used.”
The journalist pressed the Pope to know whether he would use that term and “acknowledge that members of the Church participated in this genocide.”
Francis hastened to insist that he did not intentionally eschew the word “genocide” in the historical abuse of indigenous Canadians.
“Yes, it’s a technical word — genocide — but I didn’t use it because it didn’t come to mind, but I described,” the Pope said.
“It is true, yes, yes, it was genocide.”
“You can all be calm [about this]. You can say that I said that it was genocide,” he replied.
The Pope then noted that regarding the colonization of the Americas by “the British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, there has been a mentality of ‘we are superior, and these indigenous people don’t matter,’ and that is serious.”
Francis added that the problem of all colonialism is that whoever doesn’t enter its path is considered inferior.
“But I want to expand on this. They were considered not only inferior: some somewhat crazy theologian even wondered whether they had a soul,” the Pope said.
“It is true that there were voices that spoke out, like Bartolomeo de las Casas, for example or Pedro Claver, but they were the minority,” he added.
“The consciousness of human equality came slowly.”
“And I say consciousness, because in the unconscious, there is still something.”
“We have — allow me to say it — a somewhat colonialist attitude of reducing their culture to ours. It is something that comes to us from the developed way of life, our own, because of which we sometimes lose values that they have.”
The Pope suggested that this can stem from an accelerated material development in the first world that loses sight of deeper values.
“I’m not speaking against development; development is good. But it is not good with the anxiety of development, development, development,” he said.